Recently I had coffee with a friend that I used to work with. My friend is now in a mid-level management position with a group of technical developers working for him. The company he works for relies very heavily on the technical team to design custom components for each new client they work with. The company is doing really well and they have recently signed up many new clients.
Their technical team has been very successful at meeting deadlines and the executives have been conditioned to expect them to pull off miracles on a regular basis. The technical team has realized that the “final push” mentality is an everyday expectation; and they have lost their motivation and eagerness to face yet another set of new client demands. My friend wanted to know how to rekindle the fire under his team – to help get back their “Je ne sais quoi” if you will.
This situation highlights two important attributes of a successful leader. The first attribute is the ability to manage expectations in multiple directions (his technical team and his management team). The second attribute is in the ability to recognize and mitigate project risk. His risk mitigation strategy has been to “accept” the risks. I encouraged him to take a proactive approach to resolving this situation. He needs to set expectations with the executive team, explaining that his team’s capacity has been maxed and lay out the risks to quality, timeliness and ultimately – customer satisfaction. His management presentation needs to also include mitigation options to address the capacity, quality, and timeframe risks.
My friend thought his issue was in the lack of motivation in his team. The real issue is staring him in the face when he looks in the mirror. He owes it to his management team to outline the current situation and provide options to contain the risk. He also owes it to his team to create an environment that supports and fosters their success. At some point, the capacity of his team (including himself) will be tapped out; and at some point, something will give. I just hope it’s not his own Je ne sais quoi.
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Janet Dahmen is Avout’s Delivery Services Partner who focuses on ensuring the overall effectiveness and quality of each engagement. She has over 20 years of project management experience and serves as a mentor and coach to over 20 project managers.