Monday, December 29, 2014

Project Management Soft Skill Tip #1

One of the key goals of any project manager is to motivate team members to complete tasks within a certain budget and time period.  They have six months and 1,000 hours to complete design XYZ is a typical example.  What is the best way for a project manager to motivate an individual to complete the task? 

One simple and small change could improve how an individual focuses their attention.  Behavioral psychology and the "small-area hypothesis" provides a good starting point.  The research suggests that a project manager can increase the chance of success by, in the early stages of the project, having team members focus on the small amount of progress that has already been made rather than on the larger amount that remains. 

One reason for this is because in the early stages of a task, such as designing the footings for a bridge, focusing on the small number appeals to the human desire to behave as efficiently as possible.  An action on your project that moves a project engineer from 20% completion of a task on the WBS to 40% completion has doubled their progress.  This seems huge compared from 60% completion to 80% completion - which is the same 20% completion rate.

Drop the "we're 85% of the way to go" and go with the "you're 15% of your quarterly target."

What happens when you hit the 50% mark on your project?  Drop the "You are 80% of the way to achieving your goal" and go with "You only have 20% left to achieve your final design goal."

In many respects, project coaching and mentoring is about highlighting the smaller area of attainment achieved or remaining.  We all seem to like small-area signals.

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