Project Management: Don’t Forget About the Relationship

SkyTerra Project Management

During the lifecycle of a project, the project manager will interact with all team members to some degree. During the initial phases, we align on the objectives & deliverables and begin establishing the working relationships that are required for the team to successfully deliver.

Over the years as a professional project manager, I have observed (and experienced first-hand) that successful projects have a set of common characteristics. One of those characteristics…which is all too often overlooked…is a series of good working relationships among the team members.

Think about it. All projects really boil down to one thing…change. While the drivers for this change are usually sound and justified in some way, we as human beings are naturally averse to it. This aversion can (and usually does) result in some form of a rift between one or more project team members.

As project managers, we need to be able to not only recognize that this is a natural occurrence during a project (remember Forming, Storming, Norming & Performing?) but be able to work through it with the team to build those critical relationships.

The Project Management Institute has published a conference paper by Lynda Bourne on the importance of The Stakeholder Circle. It is based on the premise that a project can only exist with the informed consent of its stakeholder community (Weaver & Bourne, 2002), and that managing the relationships between the community and the project will increase a project team’s chances for achieving a successful outcome.

My approach to team interactions and relationships boils down to three key tenets:
• Build the plan together and execute…together
• Get to know the team members
• Treat everyone with respect

When tensions are running high, never underestimate the value of an actual conversation. We tend to revert to email for communications during challenging times…pick up the phone and avoid this pitfall. You may be pleasantly surprised with the difference it makes!

In conclusion, remember to develop and maintain these critical relationships. The project manager cannot deliver on his/her own and neither can individual team members. We are all in this together…and our success depends on it!

Steven Palanza