What About The People In The Project?

We’ve all been there. We’re working on a team project and have to adapt to a new process, and sometimes new technologies, to fully contribute to the project. But we’re all different in terms of our work and learning styles and our competencies as they relate to technological tools. Tech skills are no doubt important, but so is a diversity of skills and expertise outside of the tech realm. That raises the question “ How should project managers address diverse teams to effectively realize a goal or objective?” 

In this podcast episode of Becoming Inclusive, Kaleidoscope Group’s Marketing Project Director, Jodi Matas joined the co-hosts Reggie and Kat to discuss how she confronts and addresses the competency and learning gaps between people and executing a project. Are some project managers losing out on potentially exceptional team members because they are being too rigid about a preferred project management style? And how are project leads creating and nurturing diverse and inclusive teams to ensure everyone is contributing to the best of their abilities? 

Host Reggie Ponder opened the discussion by playing devil’s advocate, saying when it comes to managing teams, senior leaders don’t always have the time, or desire, to learn each team member’s working or learning style, they just want the project delivered successfully and on time. He makes a valid point.  However, Jodi was quick to respond saying that it was important to have a basic knowledge of each team member’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of the technology used; in addition to clearly stating the goal for increased buy-in. In other words, don’t assume that every team member has the same comfort level with a specific tech tool. Some of them may need coaching or guidance, plus a rationale for why things are being done in a certain way. 

While some project managers may not feel the need to explain themselves or their approach to everyone on a team, it’s helpful in many ways. Constant learning is key in today’s technology-driven business world. New tools, platforms, and solutions are introduced so frequently that we’re all constantly learning, adapting, and growing; and our employers expect us to be able to adapt rapidly. 

But as Jodi and host Kat Potts argued, not everyone is going to get up to speed at the same time. It’s critical that effective project managers take that reality into account. That doesn’t mean they can just ignore the process, they’re still held accountable for delivering their items on time. However, may require a bit more help from the project leader or another team member who can mentor them. 

Kat also made the point that team leaders should also be open to team members who might have a better way of accomplishing a task than other team members. Should it matter how they do it if the outcome is the same? So, listening to team members is as important as explaining the goal. 

Two of the major takeaways are:

  1. Leaders need to understand the human factor, not just the technology used in project management.
  2. Understanding team members’ working and learning styles make stronger, more, innovative, and inclusive teams.

Concluding the discussion, Jodi once again made the case that diverse teams stoke innovation. And focusing too much on technical skills can lead us to miss out on some exceptional talent. She’s not wrong.