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I realise this is not strictly a Project Management question, but is very closely aligned to PM practises and people, so I hope it's in scope. I am currently in the process of applying for an internal role as Project Management Team Lead. This will involve line management of up to 10 project managers. The workload is a combination of IT Systems Change and Business Change. Development (i.e. coding etc.) is done by outsourced third parties. I am a reasonably highly experienced technical project manager, although I have in the past performed this role for other employers.

I have been asked to produce a presentation on a Case Study, mainly around allocation of Project Managers to Projects when there are too few of the former and too many of the latter. One of the questions I have been asked is "How would you achieve and maintain a high performing team"

I have produced the following:

  • Ensure the team has clear objectives over and above personal objectives, and a means to measure and track itself against those objectives
  • Ensure team objectives are cascaded and supported by personal objectives
  • Identify individuals' strengths and weaknesses (including myself) and create targeted Q&A sessions where members may evangelise and advocate on their strengths. For example on:

Estimation and Planning, MS-Project, Stakeholder Management, Risks and Issues Management, Testing Management, Documentation, etc.

  • Enlist the team to help with resource planning wherever possible to share the difficulties and foster better "buy-in" on resource allocation decisions
  • Ensure the team knows that support, advice and "top cover" is available when/if they need it, and ensure it is always provided when asked for
  • Ensure problems and issues are discussed privately, transparently and in a blame-free environment
  • Ensure regular social interaction outside of the work environment where appropriate and possible

... I've never really had to put down on paper before how I expect to develop a highly performing team. It's been an interesting exercise.

So my question is- Have I missed any critical items?!

  • These are PMs that you have on your team but who will be assigned to various projects, right? So they are not really a "team" from the standpoint that they collectively work on something, right? – David Espina Feb 10 '14 at 17:55
  • That is true, but it is "my" team- I do the allocation of projects among them, I am their line manager in all regards. I get what you mean though, and it is a common issue in a primarily matrix-managed project environment. Nonetheless I must still answer the question as part of my job application :) – Marv Mills Feb 10 '14 at 17:57
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    You've missed how you'll ensure that the organization will support the success of the PMs and their projects, rather than simply "holding them accountable." – Todd A. Jacobs Feb 11 '14 at 13:14
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I would look at this from the standpoint of each individual team member from a knowledge, skills, and abilities view. Since you are managing a PM practice where your point is to deploy the individual, your focus should be in preparedness of that individual. It does not really matter how they interact with each other. It's nice, but does not necessarily move the performance bar.

Look at it like you are managing machines or tools that get shipped out for use. Your focus here is the tool is fit for use, cleaned up from the last use, well oiled, serviced where it needs servicing, on the shelf waiting for deployment, and maybe turned on and tested every now and again to ensure its readiness.

And, part of this includes sunsetting a tool no longer fit and replacing it with a new one.

So focus on those things that increase knowledge, skills, and abilities, and be prepared to cut the lower performers on a regular basis.

The other things are nice to haves and bring the humanistic side into the equation; it makes people feel better where they work and that can have some nice favorable side effects, but don't rely on that because the validity is not necessarily that high. Capability enablers are and moving out low performers will move your practice to a high state of readiness. Cold and callous, I know, but such is work life in my view.

  • I really like this way of thinking of things and I think it is the distillation of where my thinking was going, particularly in terms of approach to skills levels. My aim is to grow a team of flexible and capable professionals who can take on the toughest of delivery requirements in a variety of technical and business environments. However, though I may internalise the model you propose, its stark brutality is not what my employers will want to hear. That's the peril of a large corporate environment I guess. Thanks. – Marv Mills Feb 10 '14 at 23:47
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    Not only did I like this approach, I also used it in my interviews and got the job :) So I'm marking this as the correct answer to a somewhat subjective question. Thanks David! – Marv Mills Apr 18 '14 at 9:26
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I don't think the approach to leading PMs should be really any different from leading anyone else.

  • Establish Your Expectations. Set a standard that is clear and achievable.
  • Lead From the Front. Make sure you not only live up to that standard but excel it.
  • Demonstrate Trust. Trust that they can do their jobs. Delegate authority. Give them the chance to prove that they can excel.
  • Verify Regularly, Honestly and Quickly. Follow up regularly and reasonably frequently to ensure that they are meeting the standard set. If they aren't meeting the standard be honest with them about where the gaps are. In this way you'll catch problems early and can address them when they are minor.
  • Whilst those common values can be applied to all management situations I am expecting I need to do more specialised work in creating and maintaining a team of PMs, particularly in the challenging world of matrix-management as outlined by David Espina in his answer, since I will not be constantly working alongside my team members as they will be elsewhere in the organisation running their projects. Food for thought though, thanks. – Marv Mills Feb 10 '14 at 23:51
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Managing transitions

The points listed by you seem to cover steady state. However, the hardest part of your job may be managing the transition when one of your key project managers were to leave your team. Establish a policy of internal growth so that if a senior person quits, other capable people in your team are considered first before going for an outside hire. You should have some junior PM roles in your team. This is where you will bring in new hires and they will have an opportunity to learn the ropes and prove their capability without involving high risk.

  • Thanks, that's a good point. There are many PMs of all different skillsets and experience levels in the team and the company has a policy of internal hiring as well. So that's all good. – Marv Mills Feb 10 '14 at 23:43

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