Key points on PM teams
by Kevin C. Miller
PM Network had the opportunity to discuss teams and project management with Rick Barrera, who will be the keynote speaker at PMI's 2001 Seminars & Symposium, 1–10 November in Nashville, Tenn., USA. Barrera, a globally recognized expert on the concepts of teams and leadership, assists organizations with the tools and techniques to make them competitive in today's marketplace. He is the author of several books, including Fast Forward: How Today's Best Companies are Meeting the Need for Speed. Barrera will give his keynote speech, “It Takes All Kinds,” on 7 November.
PM Net: In your presentation, you will discuss four distinct, basic human behavioral patterns. Can you explain them?
RB: These basic four styles go back throughout history. The “directors” are very task-oriented, very work-oriented. It doesn't mean that they can't have fun. It just means that they want to get the work done, then have fun. The “socializers” like to play first. If there is any time left, then the work gets done. They like to chat with you and get to know you. The “relaters” are relationship-focused like the socializers, but they prefer one-to-one interaction. They like small themes. The “thinkers” are cerebral, logical and like to work alone. When it comes to tasks, they like to accomplish the work internally. They leave the scene and come back with a solution.
PM Net: How can each affect the dynamics of a project team?
RB: They each have their strengths, but when overused, these strengths can become a weakness. Directors are so focused on getting the job done, taking a project to market, that they may release a product before the bugs are worked out. The socializers throw out large quantities of ideas. Their minds are often unfettered with reality. Relaters do their work behind the scenes. Thinkers are very quiet.
PM Net: Why is it important to identify these different traits in others?
RB: When people are working in their natural style they are more productive. If you stick socializers in their cubicles and not allow them to interact with others, they will produce nothing. You must balance all types.
PM Net: How does stress affect these behavioral patterns?
RB: Stress completely changes them. Most people change under stress. A good project manager must be able to recognize stress patterns. For example, socializers become very sarcastic and push people away. This must be recognized before they shut down entirely. Thinkers totally disappear when put under pressure. Directors thrive under stress.
PM Net: With all these different personalities, conflict is inevitable. How can this conflict be avoided, utilized or minimized to increase project performance?
RB: One of the most helpful things is, don't keep secrets. Talk about your different styles and perceptions of others. The more communication, the better the project team will function.
PM Net: Is it better for the project team as a whole to adopt the style of the project leader or for the leader to adopt the prevalent style of the team? Which is the more successful formula?
RB: In reality, you go at the pace of the leader. Typically, the leader is a director personality. He stands up and says, “I‘m in charge.” It is his way or the highway. Directors like to have directors on their team. We are all drawn to familiarity. A wise leader selects different people and allows the team to develop its own style or culture. The ideal team is equal amounts of each. It is also very dependent on the task at hand.
PM Net: If you could create the perfect project manager or team leader, what traits would you include in that person?
RB: What you would want is someone who understands each style and can be flexible enough to converse with each style and yet come back to the center. The ultimate vision is not to be one style, but to be flexible.
PM Net: You speak about mindsets, systems and processes that have become outdated in the 21st century. What has become outdated and how are they being replaced?
RB: Companies are basically no longer hierarchies. What we are seeing is virtual networks and organizations. Many people are working for themselves as contractors. Knowledge and communications skills are driving wealth. Hubs of information are being formed. The hubs that share and receive more information are the most valuable, so individuals and teams with the best communication skills and flexibility are required.
“First to the Future“keynote speaker Rick Barrera
PM Net: You discuss the need for individuals and organizations to move at “warp speed.” What do you mean by this and what factors in the world are driving this trend?
RB: Customers, competition and technology are changing fast. Customers want bigger and better products now, and they have learned that they can get that from your competition. Technology is allowing this to happen. The improved technology is shrinking all business cycles, from product development to market research.
PM Net: You emphasize flexibility, innovation and speed in your presentations. If these traits are not apparent in your organization, is it possible to change corporate culture overnight?
RB: It never changes overnight and rarely over time. The best leaders find things that are working and reinforce them. Shifting a culture is difficult and rare. Usually, if you want to change the culture, you must change the players, but this often is expensive and wasteful. It destroys what assets you do have.
PM Net: Are you aware of any trends in project management that are forward thinking?
RB: The single biggest shift is in the way we communicate, organize and execute. You will see an uptick in collaborative software. A lot more virtual teams are popping up.
PM Net: Is project management a successful method for organizations to achieve the type of success necessary in the 21st century?
RB: All work is now projectized. All knowledge work is project work. Many people are working on multiple projects at a time, whether they know it or not. Things are much more complex than they used to be.
PM Net: Do you have any advice for project managers and project team members?
RB: I would advise project managers to be as flexible as they can be and maximize their team members. It is not about you; it is about getting the most productive work from the team. Project managers have a tendency to “do” rather than to elicit. I advise project team members that teams are about strengths and weaknesses. If you impose your view on the team, you can hurt the team. In addition, reserving your opinion can hurt. There is a balance between being heard and feeding your ego. Pushing too hard can damage the outcome.
Kevin C. Miller is a former PMI® public relations coordinator and continues to freelance for the Institute. He is an account executive with Barton & Gilanelli Associates Inc., a marketing communications firm in Philadelphia, Pa., USA.
PM Network September 2001