Project Management

“Problem” Team Members

One of my office neighbors asked me about how I handle “problem” team members. His examples were:

  • the team member who doesn’t provide good estimates
  • the team member who doesn’t stop talking in meetings

In each case, and I argue, in most cases, there are no problem team members. I firmly believe that most people want to do their job well. However, people are often misunderstood, or they don’t understand what they’ve been asked to do.

As project managers, we must ensure that we don’t jump to conclusions. Just because we have a clear picture of what needs to be done, that doesn’t mean that anyone else shares that understanding. We must use the tools of project management, especially the Work Breakdown Structure, the Schedule, and the Risks List, to build that shared understanding.

Here’s my take on the answer to my friend’s specific questions. First, the person who has trouble estimating has a lot of company. Few people estimate well when they start out. That’s why I’m such an advocate for time tracking. Until a person builds up a history of how it long it takes to do certain tasks, it’s very hard to develop accurate estimates. I use Liquid Planner every day, and I take advantage of its timing feature to keep track of how well my effort estimates match my actuals. Second, when dealing with someone (like myself) who talks a lot in meetings, it’s important that the meeting facilitator explicitly asks the quieter members of the team to speak. There are kind and gentle ways of telling the extrovert that you’re grateful for her comments, but that you’d like to hear from others as well.

Project Management

Are team building exercises bad for introverts?

Here’s an interesting discussion from Tech Republic about the value of team building exercises.

Several self-described nerds wrote in to say that they find the team building exercises that have been designed by extroverts to be truly horrific for introverts. One contributer, who calls herself Server Queen, said

I find that kind of thing very stressful, as I do almost any forced socialization. Any true introvert will find forced socialization draining. That’s the definition of an introvert; a true extrovert finds solitude draining and recharges from doing things in groups.

I’m an introvert at heart but I have forced myself to learn how do to things in extroverted ways because I find it easier to make a living using that mode of expression.

I think that team building exericises can be valuable but only if we as designers put a lot of thought into their development. The hoky “let’s all throw the koosh ball” games are perceived as a waste of time by all but the most extroverted of participants.

I love Thiagi’s games and have used several of them to good effect. But from now on, I’m going to put more thought into whether these games are safe for introverts.