All that People Stuff

“I am too busy doing the work to worry about all that people stuff”, said one of my students. “I am busy managing the project and updating the schedule and budget and making sure people don’t miss their deadlines, you know – doing the real work”, he continued.

I wish I could tell you this was the first and the last time that I had ever heard such a comment, but alas I hear this comment almost every time I work with a group and discuss the importance of relationships, soft skills and getting to know our co-workers.

Yes, when you are in charge of a team, you are in charge of making sure they hit their goal on schedule and on budget. A large part of your time is spent in receiving status, giving direction, identifying risks, resolving issues and maintaining the schedule and the budget.

Now I ask you to take time to get to know the people around you. Step away from your workspace and have face-to-face (when possible) interactions with your stakeholders. Next I ask you to really think about what you know about your stakeholders. How do they want you to communicate with them? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What do they really expect to get from your project? What do you really need from them? Who do they have relationships with? Do you think they are in favor of your project or do they just wish it would end?

All of the above takes time and it is a dynamic process. As you get to know people better you learn more about them and as your relationship continues it will change. Hopefully it gets stronger and better.
All of this information helps you make better decisions about how to treat the people you work with and how to communicate with them in the most effective manner.

So what? What good does all this information do for you when you have stacks of paper work on your desk? The work is about the people; your project comes in on schedule and on budget because of the people who do the work. Not because of the paper work you complete. It is about the relationships. All that people stuff is proactive conflict resolution. When you pay attention to the people around you, you are giving yourself the knowledge you need to avoid unnecessary conflict. The kind of conflict that stems from inadvertently offending people or the conflict that arises when people feel like you are ignoring them or value paperwork over people.

You don’t have to do ‘all this people stuff’ you can stick to the science of project management and stay away from the art. I really wish you would pay attention to the people and to the art of project management. I really want you to embrace ‘peopleology’ as part of your work. I believe you will find it to be time well spent.