Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

You’re part of a team working on a critical project with a tight, but you think achievable, delivery date. In order to deliver on project commitments, each team member must deliver on their parts of the whole, and in the time-frames specified. Each team member has a role to play in the timely delivery of his or her parts for the project to come together properly. Each member’s role may change at different phases of the project. At some points, you may be tasked to lead specific efforts. At other points, you may be tasked to follow the lead of others. At yet other points, you may not have an assigned role, pending the delivery of others’ work efforts, and in such cases, it is often necessary that you simply get out of the way. What often dooms a project is when one or more members of the team do not carry out their assigned roles, whatever those roles may be. What can also doom a project is when team members inject themselves into roles they have not been assigned, adversely affecting the roles and delivery of others. It is critical that each team member, based on his or her role, needs to lead, follow, or get out of the way!

When a project plan is developed, one person or a small team is typically tasked with developing the project plan. This person or team usually has, through experience, an understanding of what is required to bring together all the many pieces necessary to complete the project, in the necessary and proper sequence, and with the necessary and proper resources (see Take the Time to Plan). It may be possible to have some team members work independently on some portions of the project while the project plan is being developed, but that, in itself, should be part of the project plan. Others may be able to do some background research on the project, but this should not influence the project plan development.

Once the project plan is complete and approved as necessary, it is up to those involved to carry out their roles through the various stages of the project. Specific people’s roles may vary throughout the various stages, or may remain the same. It is essential that people understand the various roles and what these mean in the various stages (see Leadership Is Not Just For ‘Leaders’).