in Leading People

Leading Projects: Balancing Rational with Emotion

A start-up or a fledgling organization relies on individual heroism of their people to successfully deliver projects. These team members are enthusiastic, engaged and willing to see the project succeed. They are emotionally connected to the purpose of project/organization. Emotion is the basis of how they operate.

Then the organization starts growing. To manage growth, processes are introduced. New tools are implemented and an org chart with hierarchy is established. Slowly, layers of processes and people are added and focus shifts to processes and practices. So far, so good. The problem is when focus shifts only on processes and practices. When rational takes over the emotion.

Processes and practices are absolutely important for an organization to grow, learn and sustain. But often, project managers focus too much on the planning, scheduling, managing risks and watching the metrics that they forget to focus on people. This results in disengagement (or in other words, dispassionate compliance) where people do the minimum required to get a task done.

Consider this: A study published by Harvard Business Review found that average overrun on IT projects is 27% and one out of six projects had overrun of over 200%. Another study revealed that IT failure rates results in loss of $50 billion to $150 billion to US economy alone.

The cost of an emotionally disengaged team to a project is huge. Organizations have thousands of hours of project management experience. Processes standards are getting better and more mature. Why then are projects still in a problem?

The possible answer, according to me is: we need to balance rational with emotion, process with empathy and practices with people. We need processes for sure, but we also need a strong culture of consistent engagement. We need a project charter for sure, but people also need a compelling vision to subscribe to. We need to understand the requirements of customer for sure, but we also need to understand the emotional needs of our team members. We need skills of our people to go up along as the bars in project progress chart go up. We need experience, but we also need to experiment. We need communication and we need engagement.

Every project we execute is a glorious opportunity to practice leadership, to make a difference in a customer’s business, to nurture the talents of our people. As a project manager, you can make that happen only when you focus on the emotional aspect as much as the rational one.

That, to me is what makes a great project manager and a team great!

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  1. Too good Tanmay ,
    Most of the mangers concentrate on getting things done rather than being a little considerate about the team members emotional needs.Your articles surely gives us a brilliant recipe , mixing the ingredients of process and emotions in good proportions.

    Thanks for initiating this thought!!!

    Shruti

  2. Excellent Tanmay.
    I have seen project managers who only focus on only process and metrics but treating team members as resources only.
    Other way I have also boserve great project manager who not only focus on process and metrics but also take care of team.

  3. Really great piece and I totally agree that an emotionally invested team is of far more benefit than one that’s just going through the motions of getting the project done. After all, you can have all the project charters and processes you want, but if the right people aren’t doing them then this won’t go unnoticed.

  4. Tanmay, this is very true where you have same project team for different type of projects and team needs to play different roles for different projects. At these times, emotional management is very important to manage the projects.

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