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As Team Lead, How to Handle Project Going Off the Rails?

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This topic contains 9 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Sharmin Saylor 2 months, 4 weeks ago.

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  • #239474

    Sharmin Saylor
    Participant

    I’m the Black Belt project lead on a “modernization” finance project that’s taking a lot longer than anticipated (you see where this is going).

    The team is great, it’s just that the work is way outside their comfort zone so it seems like it’s moving really slowly.

    My question is: as the lead, how would you handle this?

    My VP of quality has a healthy dose of realism about the timeline, but the process owner doesn’t and this is where it’s tough. The team is just not moving fast enough to accomplish tasks every week. Work or some emergency always gets in the way.

    At what point should I start sounding the alarm?

    I’d like to give it a couple of weeks and see if the team picks up the pace but I’m not confident anything will change.

    Any and all feedback in really appreciated!

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    #239492

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @sharmin Not sure what happened. I answered this yesterday so I am not sure what happened, what I might have done or if Katie took it down. I was nice so we won’t blame Katie.

    You are the team lead not their nanny. Go into the next team meeting and put the problem on the table and see how they think they should handle it. Your job is to facilitate the discussion not solve every problem they have.

    Regardless of how much the VP of quality understands the process owner is exactly that – the process owner. I would get the VP of quality to do some coaching and mentoring. Have the discussion with your team and assuming the PO isn’t a total jerk invite them to a meeting and have the team present their thoughts.

    If you have that meeting and the PO doesn’t get it and you don’t get to some agreement sound the alarm. I had a team in another country that was moving incredibly slow and refused to acknowledge they were just not putting in any effort. I sent them all back to work and told them I was forming the same team with different people. By the next morning they were back and agreed to put in the work.

    These are people issues. There are no pat answers just stuff that works and stuff that doesn’t. Do what you think is right and sometimes it works out. Do not let the team stand you up in front to be the first person shot. Not your job.

    Good luck

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    #239496

    Katie Barry
    Keymaster

    @mike-carnell I never saw your post. It didn’t get caught in our Trash/Spam filter so not sure where your response went, but wanted to confirm that it wasn’t removed on our end.

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    #239497

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @katiebarry I pretty much figured that. I am still pretty cyber challenged. Thank you for checking. I think yesterdays response was better but I don’t remember exactly what it was.

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    #239529

    Tamela Serensits
    Participant

    @sharmin I highly recommend getting a copy of Crucial Conversations. It really helped me find the right way to approach difficult situations at work (and at home!) without alienating the people I was trying to influence. Super super practical advice!

    Book on Amazon:

    Here’s a summary but it doesn’t have the conversation “script” like the book does:
    http://www.wikisummaries.org/wiki/Crucial_Conversations:_Tools_for_Talking_When_Stakes_are_High

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    #239559

    Chris Seider
    Participant

    @tammyz06 nice book

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    #239577

    Strayer
    Participant

    @sharmin If your project is “boiling the ocean” (Making huge changes without resources or commitment to do it) it’s destined to failure and whatever you do to address the symptomatic signs of impending doom will not avert this. When “work or some other emergency” gets in the way of team members doing what you need from them you can be sure that they aren’t committed, and you might assume that they see impending failure and would rather not be associated with it. If this is what’s happening I’d advise you to meet with your VP of quality and the process owner to have an honest and open discussion. Ideally you’ll want someone who is above both of them and an independent expert on the project space to participate. If you can do this you may end up with a reduced and more achievable scope, and the commitment to do it. I’m making assumptions from what you said but I’m also speaking from experience where projects failed or were revived and successful with reduced scope.

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    #239592

    Joel Mason
    Participant

    @sharmin – Here are few more thoughts in addition to what others have said:

    1. Did you take the time to establish ground rules for the team? If not, that might be contributing to your experience. I believe it isn’t too late to establish them if you haven’t.
    2. Does the process owner (which sounds like someone I would call “champion” in my world) understand the why of Six Sigma? Do the team members understand the why of Six Sigma? If not, you might need to spend some time giving the why of the methodology and toolset. And if they have not embraced the why of the project itself, it’s aim, then that would be a gap as well. In Simon Sinek’s words, start with why.
    3. Did the process owner charter the project with your assistance? If the process owner did not lead the chartering and the kick-off, that’s a gap from the start in my opinion.
    4. Are you dominating the conversations? I’ve seen cases where Black Belts were so active in their facilitation that the team members began deferring to the project lead when they shouldn’t have. And the team members did so almost unknowingly.

    if I’m asking myself “should I raise the alarm?” the answer is generally ‘yes’. That’s just my personal experience. How to raise the alarm and what to do about it are other questions. I believe the alarm starts with you being very direct with the team first – not going to the VP of quality and the champion first. Being direct is a lot easier for me when I have agreed upon ground rules of behavior, a clear charter, and an established level of trust that I’ve built. Handle this conflict inside the team first if at all possible. If you’ve already done that and the reason for the lack of progress really is other priorities in the business, then I’d say that is reason to have a conversation about priorities with the process owner and your VP of Quality. Best wishes to you, I suspect we’ve all been in your position. On the bright side, some of the deepest professional relationships I have now are ones that endured conflict like this. We came out on the other side with deeper relationships than before.

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    #239644

    Sharmin Saylor
    Participant

    @mike-carnell @tammyz06 @cseider @Straydog @joelmason35

    Thank you all SO much for your input. I will definitely be using it as I move forward in this project.

    I’ve already set an agenda for the next meeting to have a discussion about this, and my copy of Crucial Conversations is on the way so I can make sure to power read it before the meeting. :)

    The general rules were discussed at the beginning, and I think now is the perfect time to revisit our expectations as a team and with the process owner.

    Wish me luck!

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    #240545

    Sharmin Saylor
    Participant

    I LOVE all the feedback. Sorry for the delay. This has been tremendously helpful for me!

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