Your team are the single most import element in the success of your project. They equate to a lot of the eggs in your metaphorical project-basket. If you cannot rely on the individuals in your team to do their best for the cause, then you really need to consider whether they are suited to a career working for you.
Sometimes you can have a go at re-aligning their attitude. But, as has been proven by many psychological studies, you can change a person’s behaviour; you can rarely change the person. So 95% of the time you will find they will eventually revert to type. Bear in mind, the longer you carry the baggage, the more it is costing you, and the less return on your investment you are likely to get.
Add to this the negative effect they have on the team and project that you will have to recover afterwards, and you should be arriving at one conclusion: it’s better for all concerned to jettison the excess baggage sooner rather than later.
No-one said this job was easy, or pleasant, but the mark of a good manager is being able to do the tough things with equal professionalism and clarity. However, if there are political blockers to you doing the right thing, there are, a couple of alternative approaches; marginalisation and vapourisation.
People, especially customers, forget the real definition of an estimate. Its an estimate. Not a guarantee. But because they forget this they are generally unhappy if a delivery is going to be ‘late’. And with lateness comes blame. And, good guys don’t get blamed. Its the arses fault.
Good guys get out of this blame problem by getting good at the ancient art of Schedule Chicken. In every delivery, there is almost always a set of dependant deliverables. To win the game all you have to do is bet that one of the other deliverables will deliver late and, crucially, declare they are going to be late before you have to. Therefore, you gain the extra time their slippage offers.
So, the easiest way to for you to get some slip in your project is to let someone else do it for you and, presumably, take the blame.
Schedule Chicken should be played with caution and definitely not by an arse. Watching an arse attempt to do it is however, very funny. This is particularly good when an arse is playing schedule chicken against you and you know you are going to deliver on time. Supply misinformation that suggests to him, off the record, that you might be a bit late. He’ll rub his hands together in glee hoping that you have given him a way out of his own slippage. This joy will be short lived as he finally declares that he is unable to deliver one day before the project is due and is ripped a new one.
Perhaps not always closely associated with Project Management, Tennis should never be far from your mind. It works like this. When a customer is waiting for something from you the ball is on your side of the net.
This is bad but not disastrous. You don’t necessarily have to give them what they want to get the ball back over the net. By simply seeking clarification or asking them a question you can easily get the ball back on the other side of the net. This is good. The heat is now off and you can concentrate on the bigger issues. Practice batting the ball back as often as you can and you will quickly learn how this strategy gives you a more relaxed transition towards the grave.
If tennis isn’t your thing, think of the little clocks they use in chess. You’re job is to keep the customer’s clock ticking. Take great glee when you slam the switch on your little clock down.