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I wonder how you seek to increase engagement in project teams.

I'm with the challenge of finding ways, methodologies and principles that open up characteristics as pro-activity, leadership and teamwork, project team members, in order to increase the engagement of all employees and participants in the PMO.

Ps: The peculiarities of this challenge is that within the PMO the same team plans collaboratively the university extension projects and perform the same, sequential or parallel. The project team is basically made up of undergraduate students, volunteers and teachers.

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In my experience one of the best ways to kick start engagement is through the use of retrospectives. Not the post mortem, power point slide it to death, of old. Agile style retrospectives, that are focused and follow up afterwards.

For example, as an agile coach at AOL, one of the first things I needed to address was low engagement in the teams I worked with. The teams I work with had come from a purchased startup and they were in the classic post executive package malaise. I needed to get them out of this slump and engaging with myself and management.

I used a simple retrospective technique called Speed Boat. Running this with each team, in a single hour I was able to not only get a good understanding of what the key issues were, I also went from a room full of passive listeners to an active conversation that continued.

One critical key is the follow up. You can't just do retrospectives and expect things to get better. You have to help the team follow up on their improvements and also follow up on your actions that come out of these. Retrospectives with no follow up quickly lose their effect.

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On an individual project you can try to increase engagement through:

  • Having your executives tell the team why their work matters. The foundation for having a motivated team is to ensure they understand the business value of their effort, how the organization will benefit, how they themselves will benefit, how they will make a difference.
  • Praise the team and individuals when they do well. Talk about successes. Do this in person. Do this often. Do this publicly. This doesn't have to be fancy... just stop by a person's desk, find out what they are doing, figure out something positive about their effort and let them know.
  • Focus on recovering from problems rather than the problem itself. When something bad happens make sure there is no finger pointing or moaning. Focus on talking about solutions instead. If this deals with a particular individual keep it private. This will help motivate the team by demonstrating that if there is a screw-up they won't be dragged over the coals.

The key is to do these things consistently throughout the lifecycle of a project.

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