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LA nightLos Angeles was the kind of place where everybody was from somewhere else and nobody really dropped anchor. It was a transient place. People drawn by the dream, people running from the nightmare. Twelve million people and all of them ready to make a break for it if necessary. Figuratively, literally, metaphorically — any way you want to look at it — everybody in LA keeps a bag packed. Just in case.

I love American crime fiction. That particular bit is from Michael Connelly’s The Brass Verdict, and it got me thinking; does it remind you of some projects you’ve been on?

Everybody was from somewhere else . . .
This is normal. Maybe you are running one of the most important projects the organisation has ever undertaken and, as such, you have been given a team of full-time, highly motivated individuals, all experts in their field. Maybe all the planets will line up, too. Chances are, however, you will have little say in choosing your team members and you will be expected to run a full-time project with part-time people. You know how it is; heads of department will assign various waifs and strays to support you. You will be assured you have 20% of so-and-so’s time but, in reality, so-and-so is allocated to multiple projects totalling 150% of her time. You’ve got a job on your hands.

Nobody really dropped anchor  . . . It was a transient place.
Remember that every project has in fact two deliverables. The first is obvious; to achieve the business objective defined at the outset. But the second, rarely stated and often overlooked, is to deliver better people. Each team member should emerge from the project stronger than before. It may be a new skill gained, experience honed, confidence boosted or – best of all – a real achievement to trumpet in their performance appraisal or on their CV. A project is indeed a transient place, but it should provide each and every team member with a development opportunity. A good project manager will recognise this, provide such opportunities and, in so doing, get the very best from each individual.

People drawn by the dream . . .
They will be drawn by the dream, provided you pitch it right. And, as I have explained above, your team will be motivated not just by an explicit business objective but also by the implicit opportunity to better themselves.

People running from the nightmare . . .
There won’t be a nightmare because, as a good project manager, you will already know “It’s the people, stupid.” You will have identified development opportunities within the scope of your project for the people within your team. And you will have a ready answer when you encourage them to ask “What’s in it for me?”

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