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Clearing Your Team's Blind Spots

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Consider a team in which all members are performing at the optimal level.

You would see them engaging internal and external staff members only when necessary. They would deliver on requirements without having to consult you every step of the way, allowing you to be the chief who oversees a big project from a higher level rather than micromanages.

When team members aren't performing at their optimal level they are often constrained by blind spots. These are the internal roadblocks specific to each team member that we often label as communication issues, team dynamics, management style, and cultural and organizational biases.

Having a blind spot means not being able to see the complete picture. When we can't see the complete picture, we make up what is hidden by using context such as our knowledge, experience, goals and motivation.

Blind spots limit us because we lack the runway length required to let our ideas take off; we impose constraints that prevent us from understanding the goal, coming up with solutions and choosing the one that works best.

To expand your runway requires a well-integrated framework of communication and teamwork based on two main principles: clearing those blind spots by empowering the team to help each other and owning your enterprise.

In part two, I will expand on the power of ownership and how to tie these principles together.

Can you think of the blind spots that you were faced with in any of your previous or current projects? What was your way of dealing with them, and what was the impact on the results you produced?

 

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9 Comments

I plan to reduce blind spots by having open communication with the team, involving team in every stage of project. Observing dissatisfied members and bring them in.

It appears to me that one important blind spot is the motivation and concern of a stakeholder of a project.

Primarily we considered these the highly visible people with whom we interact (e.g., the Director of the "end-user" organization or signatories on our control gates). While the Signatories of a project are important, it may well be that a person not directly involved in your project has an interest and a controlling influence on your project.

Example, the director of the network on which your IT project is going to be hosted may have no idea or interest in your perceived value of the project; however, he or she can certainly bring pain. Relationships must be cultivated and communication is the key.

I am facing a blind spot in my current discovery type of project. My lead engineer is unable to visualize the big picture causing a gap in the technical solutions he is providing. This is the first time he is handling this type of needs-lot-of-analysis-to-get-to-a-solution project but not confessing to it. Instead he indulges in giving lengthy, circuitous descriptions/answers to cover up this blind spot. The way I have handled this is getting external architects to review his solutions and give him their comments, giving him some solutions from my past experience which can help to trigger his thinking process, team members giving their ideas, working on smaller pieces etc. This has at least brought the project to some shape. Welcome more suggestions from all...

I found one-on-one corridor discussions over tea is the effective way to plug the blind spots. As a Project Manager I can gauge how much scope has he/she understood and whom is he/she interacting to resolve the issues if any.

The other approach I employed for a project that was new to our company and complex with aggressive schedule is to have the team work on the reference platform during planning phase (Scope/Resource drafted) make the team get the big picture and move on to the project platform during execution phase, that way you reduce learning curve and also will have the blind spots avoided in the long run.

The most common causes are inadequate skills, improper communication process and incomplete requirements. Many project mangers identify those risks early and plan contingency for the same. Example; a project which needs a particular domain knowledge / expertise skill set, can be mitigated by providing adequate training.

Incomplete requirements impact the definitions of deliverables and it ultimately blocks the expectations setting. In such scenario even a skilled resource fails to demonstrate his/her productivity. This can be minimized by involving the stakeholders, sorting out the partially / inadequately defined work packages, by seeking clarifications and by adapting iteration mode of delivery.

Lack of collaboration, improper alignment of goals, unable to visualize the risks, complete absence or inapt monitoring, lack of motivation etc. also generates blind spots.

Here communication plays the most effective role. As a regular project management practice, team should get engaged at each and every level of project cycle, all project issues, concerns should get discussed in war room and action items are meticulously identified to reach the project goals. Commitments from leadership team, team building exercise do make a positive impact in team conglomerate.

Blind spots can occur at any phase of project but mostly prevails during the initial stage of project execution.

One of the road blocks in my project has been estimates. Resources who are not responsible for a task would provide estimates and that would result in target date slippage. Due to team dynamics and organization, it was very difficult to see it early. This road block was only removed after detail tracking at micro level and showing the results. This has been a painful process to say the least.

Blind spots are to be identified in every project and work on improving on them or totally dealing with them so that a project will run smoothlt and acheive its deliverables.

I enjoyed this article and look forward to reading part II.

Many project managers have a blind spot when negotiating early in a project with the client to find out what there real requirements are. Most leave it to too late to understand the essential requirements.

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