Management in Practice

Beyond the alphabet soup of PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, PMBOK, ITIL, Agile

Understanding your people


You read many different topics on project management, but very few to do with understanding the people that work with you. I had previously posted about some of the lessons I took away from an industrial psychology session. I recently had a conversation with someone regarding why those sort of approaches are necessary when you are dealing with adults.

The key thing is, as project management professionals, we can bring to the table many good methodologies, experiences and tools. Ultimately it is what output we can get from our teams that translate into success and failure for our projects. It is therefore as much an art, as it is methodologies, experiences and tools. Even though I come from a software development background, I have not personally written code for many years. As such I know the concepts of what forms good deliveries and have understanding of many of the pitfalls. However, this is a rapidly changing field with significant paradigm shifts in design and delivery considerations. I rely on the developers in the team to advise on the most suitable approaches to work at hand.

Like any other profession, developers come with many different idiosyncrasies. Some are good talkers and as a result can manipulate discussion time; others are thinkers that give the impression they do not care, but in reality that is their thinking face; and there are those that are very skilled but shy and reluctant to put their ideas across. I consider it my responsibility to understand their tendencies and bring all of their strengths to the table. All of the team will have some strength and some areas that can be worked on. Some of the areas can be supplemented by repeatable processes or training. There are areas where the only way to move forward is through encouragement and building a closer relationship with people.

It is always a challenge when you join a new organisation. Understanding people and their tendencies is not something that you can do in a short time. You may be able to get an initial impression early on, but must keep an open mind and refine your thinking as you go. Building a trusting relationship is also takes just as much time. It is a two-way street. While you are trying to understand how best to maximise output from your people, they too are trying to understand how they can work with you. If you are able to understand their point of view quicker, your chances of success go up.

It is not a matter just treating them as adults and telling people to get hard. Best outputs are always in environments that are most enjoyable to work in.

Image credit: NY State University

3 responses to “Understanding your people

  1. PJ September 13, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Excellent post. When I first became a project manager, I was surprised when my trainer told me my role wasn’t to know how to do the developer’s jobs, but to know how to get the developers to do their jobs. I found that personal connection and emotional investment got me more results and cooperation than the application of psychology (though I was probably utilizing psychology without realizing it).

  2. Shakeel Ahmad. September 26, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    Absolutely true. I got some of very difficult project deadlines with only a fantastic pizza, since I knew that developers in my team really like a particular pizza. It was very strange but it was true.

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