One of the bizzarre problems of the modern age is that the more we advance technologically in communications, the less likely we are in terms of responding in a timely manner to issues that challenge our projects and organizations. If we set aside for a second face to face interactions (which don’t always guarantee a quick response) and look to other forms of communications such as email, phone, just to name a few instant messaging we find that people hide behind these enablers rather than attempt to deliver timely responses to the affected parties. As such, the job of the project management professionals in today’s business environment perhaps can be characterized as one of chasing people. Whether the PM is chasing team members or stakeholders for a status update, input to a decision, or response to a crisis, one thing is certain and that is the increasing level of frustration on the project and for the organization. This is significantly magnified if we consider projects that span multiple organizations, time zones, countries, continents, etc…
Chasing after people is not as easy as it seems and even when the PM is lucky enough to catch the person in real time over the phone, often the response is “let me get back to you on that.” To some extent this is impacted by corporate culture and organizational maturity. Assuming that technology itself is not the problem, there are a variety of factors that are contributing to this challenge. They may include:
- Resources are being over-stretched and they have less and less bandwidth to work on projects and address issues.
- Speed to market means that project team members have to deal with too many issues at the same time which causes a kind of on the job ADD.
- Lack of empowerment in terms of decision making that causes team members to go back to managers for decisions or issues.
- Misalignment of organizational strategy with operational activities which causes confusion among the rank and file when it comes to resolving problems and making progress on tasks.
Addressing this ongoing challenge requires an examination of corporate culture and resetting employee expectations. However, at the project/program/portfolio level there are several things that the PM practitioner can do to help address the issue. Whether it is working with the team to set up strong ground rules regarding responsiveness or developing responsibility authority matrices, all of these practices can help in reframing the issue and resolving the problem. Additionally there is a role for the executives to play as far as setting expectations with their organizations and team members. This can be done as part of the steering committee governance framework or as part of the executive sponsor’s activities.
On a final note, whenever I find myself caught up in this chasing game I try to ask myself the why question. ”Why is it that we are chasing after this individual for answers or resolutions?” If we’re able to get an answer to this question that will offer some insight as to what the barriers are moving forward.