Monday, December 26, 2011

Connecting the Team to the Client

For the project team to achieve maximum performance, every member should feel he or she is working directly for the client. This connects the employee to the firm's mission, which is to serve clients, not the project manager. Studies in a variety of industries indicate that team performance improves when team members feel a direct connection to the customer. And my own experiences as a manager and consultant bear this out.

If you are a PM, you likely are the firm's best source of information about the clients whose projects you lead. That means you assume responsibility for creating at least a vicarious connection between your team and the client through open and frequent communication. Some keys for making this happen:

Help the team understand both the project and the client. Project team members should have a sense of what the client is like on a personal basis. What motivates him, what constitutes a win for him, what are his biases, what are his hot buttons, what kind of personality does he have? This puts a face on the client, which can make a huge difference in drawing out the service orientation of the team.

Provide the context for all individual assignments. Teams perform more effectively when everyone can see the big picture and how their individual efforts contribute to the whole. Understanding the context of their respective responsibilities better enables team members to add value to their work. Given limited instructions, the worker can only do what he or she was directed to do. But with a broader perspective of the project, client, and other team member roles, that same worker is better equipped to find ways to enhance his or her contribution.

Keep team members informed of progress, changes, and client feedback. As crucial as it is to provide clear direction at the start of the project or individual assignment, it is equally important to keep the team up to date throughout the project. This acknowledges the reality of the dynamic, evolving relationship you typically have with clients, with expectations and demands subject to change as new situations and information develop. You should fully engage the team in responding to such changes. Any feedback from the client, especially that regarding team performance, should also be promptly passed on to the team.

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