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Villanova Friday, Week 6: Team Productivity

Villanova Friday logoThis week I had two weeks of lectures to listen to on the Maximizing IS/IT Team Effectiveness course I am taking with Villanova University. Given a busy day job, this was a challenge.  So much for my week off last week.

This week it has been all about managing teams in the most effective way.  We covered how to deal with resistance.  The lecturer explained it like this:

If you have to tell someone something more than 3 times, it is not ignorance, it’s resistance.

She said that if we as managers are dealing with ignorance, we can ‘teach’ our way out of the problem.  But if we are facing resistance, we need another set of tools to deal with project team members.

Dealing with resistance

Resistance occurs when the team member:

  • does not believe that change can occur. This could be a belief that the project team is incapable of changing or that the company will never allow the change.
  • does not feel that the project vision is worthwhile.
  • does not feel that the project fits with their personal values.
  • does not feel needed on the project.
  • does not understand his/her contribution to the project, or does not know what to do next.
  • does not believe that he/she is qualified to be on the team.

So, what can you do?

First, work out what is causing the resistance.  “Ask questions – all of these start with ask questions.  Seek first to understand,” says Lou Russell on the tiny screen, as I watch the lectures.  She offers a range of approaches to deal with different types of resistance including:

  • If the person is not really needed on the project, move them to meaningful work.
  • If they are needed, convince them that they are important and have a valuable part to play.
  • Provide stretch goals.
  • Work with individuals to ensure they understand the next 3 tasks so that they are clear on what to do next. Help them prioritise if necessary.
  • Find out what are the values that are bothering the team member. Establish what would have to happen to make the team member feel that their personal values are being honoured.

Assigning people to tasks

We also covered factors for assigning people to project tasks.  Match the person to the task.  Making a good match will help the team be productive and efficient.

Russell covered 4 points:

  1. Skill variety: don’t assign all the boring, repetitive tasks to one person. Spread them around. Ensure that each person gets variety in their work.
  2. Task identity: make sure that the task is clear, measurable and possible, and that the person knows what they need to do.
  3. Task significance: make sure that the task is actually relevant to the project. The contribution made should be important to the success of the whole.
  4. Feedback: the individual should receive positive and developmental feedback. Feedback should be regular.

We covered lots more including coaching, giving effective feedback, listening and facilitation skills and managing collaboration.  And there was another test this week. I haven’t finalised my grade yet, so I’m not going to share it here this time!

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About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.


  1. philippeback says

    14 March, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Well, people tend to listen to people they trust and do what is in their own best rational self interest.

    No matter how many times you are going to tell them, you’d better have something for them to hook on. Otherwise, there is no way that they will ever budge a nail.

    You can obviously try the gun on the head technique (like firing the person) but this will only work once. Or twice for a slow learner. Because they will soon be gone, especially given the current war for talent.

    And people can change, people do change all the time and cope with it well. They raise kids, they lose jobs, they navigate personal relationships and challenges. Thinking that they aren’t able to change is seeing them as dysfunctional, which they aren’t.

    But then we aren’t talking change, we are talking leadership.

    • Elizabeth says

      14 March, 2011 at 8:37 pm

      Philippe, I don’t think that Lou meant that people can’t change. The discussion was around resistance to change and overcoming that resistance through understanding why they were resisting in the first place. If they are resistent to change they probably aren’t the kind of person to get snapped up in a talent war, which makes it even more important that you work with them to improve performance (or attitude). This is the coaching part of maximizing team effectiveness that we looked at on the course last week.


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