What percent of projects fail due to the "human risk factor"? According to published statistics more than half of the 60% of projects that fail are due to human factors. With numbers so high it is no wonder that human resource management is an inherent and critical part of any project activity, and as such plays an important role in the success of any project. But the sad story is that applying risk management to humans are largely absent because most project managers do not understand the process of identifying and assessing risk factors of team members, which if done properly would allow them to proactively develop techniques to mitigate such risks and boost the success of their project.
Project managers clearly understand that a team's performance is primarily dependent on the members in the team. Bruce Tuckman, an American psychologist proposed in the 1960s that a group of people who have to work together usually go through a series of conflicting and underperforming phases before they learn to work together. This is called the "forming-storming-norming-performing" model in which the group's first phase is characterized by individuals ignoring their differences, wanting to be friends so that they can be accepted into the group. This is very much like the "honeymoon" period in a marriage. This is followed by the "storming" phase in which members are no longer afraid to confront others in the group with their own ideas and perspectives. The third phase called "norming" is one in which members begin to trust each other, and begin to establish rules of conduct and behavioral standards for the group as a whole. They still need supervision to guide them and ensure that they all work for the common good of the group. Lastly, during the final stage called "performing" the group has now become highly self sufficient and is able to work very effectively without external supervision towards achieving a common goal.
But not all teams reach the "performing" stage. In fact, very few do, especially since product and project cycles have shrunk to weeks and months. So how does a project manager assemble a team that has an increased propensity towards performing at peak capacities in a very short time. Here are some of my thoughts:
- ensure that there are controls to increase quality and reduce defects due to human factors. In other words, provide the proper tools for the job. At the most basic level - performance can be evaluated through inspections. Remember, that quality cannot be inspected into a product. Quality begins by setting quality assurance standards followed by using well-defined quality control processes to ensure that the product meets quality assurance standards.
- reduce costs due to human performance limitations, i.e., do not hire people whose skills are not a good fit for the job at hand.
- reward and publicly acknowledge team members for exceeding quality and performance standards.
- have a strong leader at the helm who can articulate the vision of the project, motivate members to reach their full potential and one who is not afraid to tell the truth when things go wrong. Only full disclosure and truthfullness allows for quick course corrections.
- empower the team and encourage them to take calculated risks without fear of penalization.
A quality-based organization goes a long way towards reducing the time and cost to bring a product to market.