Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya.

hello, my name is inigo montoya. by Rakka, on Flickr

You interfered with the productivity of my project team member.

Prepare to die.

I saw this as a twitter status on my #agile view recently and couldn’t resist doing a blog post with this theme from The Princess Bride. It’s a topic I’m very passionate about. (Productivity that is. Well, I like the movie too!)

I written quite a bit about the fact that I think one of the primary roles of the project manager is to remove obstacles from their project team. One of the constant battles I fight on behalf of my teams is for their time and focus to be as undisturbed as possible so they can great fantastic systems.

Here are some things I do to accomplish this. Please add your own tips in the comments section!

Work From Home With a Twist

An individual can accomplish much of his or her work by themselves. Even though the team interaction is a beneficial must-have, there are situations where it just makes sense to limit distractions as much as possible. In a recent case, I proposed an agreement with one of my team members for them to work from home 2 days per week, every week.

Here’s the twist. Normally when people are working from home, they are getting bombarded with instant messages and email. Sometimes it seems even less work than normal got done due to all these distractions.

So this agreement says that aside from the dialing in for the daily team tag-up in the morning, I want them to be offline and inaccessible in all ways except by phone if there is a critical situation.

This does a few things.

  • First, it allows them complete focus on their tasks.
  • Second, it is a real demonstration of your trust in them as a professional.
  • Third, it reinforces my personal focus on results, not on micro-management.

Kanban

Kanban is a way of limiting the work in process (WIP) for your project team and individuals on your project team. It’s a visual system that makes it easy to see what is currently in work, what’s coming up next, and what is already done. There are tons of other benefits of Kanban including explicit value stream mapping and team communication benefits, especially when combined with a daily stand-up meeting.

On one of my project teams, we are currently about a month ahead of where I thought we’d be when we were not yet doing the two things above effectively. I attribute our speed primarily to the two items above, besides having a great team!

So tell me, what tips do you have for removing obstacles from your project teams?

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Allen Sheaprd

Josh,

I totaly agree. I used to come in on Saturday’s just to get work done when no one else was around. It was very productive time.

Same thing happened in college. Working late in the computer lab was more productive at times.

Allen Sheaprd

Josh,

To think the mantra used to be

Now that I have found the six fingered accountant
Hello: My name is Inigo Montoya
You killed my funding, prepare to divest

Bill Brantley

You have “The Princess Bride” and I have “Missile Command” for how I view protecting your project team. If you think of your team as the cities then your job is to intercept any distractions before they can reach the team members and blow up your project. I fully agree with your message that the PM’s job is to protect the team so that they can work. The only time a PM should intervene is when the team member’s work deviates from the project plan and could affect the project’s schedule, budget, and/or scope.

We should talk some time. I am on a quest to increase the effectiveness of Project Management so that project success rates reaches 80% or better.

Stan Brink

When I worked at a private company, and they had that project that just had to be done asap.

I would come in to work in sweats and go in the back room and go to town.

The reason I wore sweats is that I couldn’t be sent out onsite and would be left alone to finish the project. 🙂

Josh Nankivel

@Allen – especially if you can save the “get immersed and crank it out” tasks for those times with no distractions. It can’t all be that way, we need to communicate and collaborate too!

Josh Nankivel

@Bill – It sounds like you are coming from the same perspective on this. I’d love to chat sometime.

I’m not sure that a % of project success means anything though, unless we all agree on what constitutes “success” and how you measure that in a consistent way across industries, project sizes and types, etc.

Bill Brantley

@Josh – Yes, project success has to be defined and I have been involved in several debates with practitioners about defining success. But the people we have to convince are the project customers and executive sponsors that project management has value. Dr. Wysocki talks about measuring project success in the terms of the business value a project delivers.

Yes it is a difficult task to define project success consistently and across various arenas. But the first project practitioners that can do that will not only have an amazing competitive advantage while making the world a much better place.

Stan Brink

@Bill – To often Project success is strictly defined by meeting deadlines and expectations.

Often this is truly a disservice to the project and the customer. Many projects are dynamic, and the expectations and deadlines laid out at the beginning are often unrealistic and based on bad information. Hardware doesn’t always do exactly what you were told it will do, same with software. Installation procedures are often useless in an environment where one unforeseen circumstance arises. I firmly believe that project management has great value, but not if it is implemented to make deadlines while ignoring the optimum solution.