The Best Chief Technology Officer

Acquiring and Motivating Personnel

Acquiring and Motivating Personnel

A major problem for the PM is the fact that most of the people needed for a project must be “borrowed”. With few exceptions, they are borrowed from the functional departments. The PM must negotiate with the functional department managers for the desired personnel, and then, if successful, negotiate with the people themselves to convince them to take on these challenging temporary project assignments.

Most functional managers cooperate when the PM comes seeking good people for the project, but the cooperative spirit has its limits. The PM will be asking for the services of the two types of people most needed and prized by the functional manager: first, individuals with scarce but necessary skills and, second, top producers. Both the PM and functional manager are fully aware that the PM does not want a “has-been”. A “never-was”, or a “never-will-be”. Perceptions about the capabilities of individuals may differ, but the PM is usually trying to borrow precisely those people the functional manager would most like to keep.

A second issue may reduce the willingness of the functional manager to cooperate with the PM’s quest for quality people. At times, the functional manager may perceive the project as more glamorous than his or her function and hence a potent source pf managerial glory. The functional manager may thus be a bit jealous or suspicious of the PM, a person who may have little interest in the routine work of the functional area even if it is the bread and butter of the organization.

On its surface, the task of motivating good people to join the project does not appear to be difficult, because the kind of people who are most desired as members of a project team are those naturally attracted by the challenge and variety inherent in project work. Indeed, it would not be difficult except for the fact that the functional manager is trying to keep the same people that the PM is trying to attract.

The subordinate who is being seduced to leave the steady life of the functional area for the glamour of a project can be gently reminded that the functional manger retains control of personnel evaluation, salary, and promotion for those people lent out to projects.

Unless the PM can hire outsiders with proven ability, it is not easy to gather competent people; but having gathered them, they must be motivated to work. Because the functional manager controls pay and promotion, the PM cannot promise much beyond the challenge of the work itself.

Motivation problems are often less severe for routine, repeated projects such as those in construction, or for projects carried out as the sole activity of an organization. In such cases, the PM probably has considerable de facto influence over salary and promotion. Frequently, the cadre of these projects is perceived as temporary, risky, and important, about all the PM can offer people is the chance to work on a challenging, high-visibility assignment, to be “needed”, and to operate in a supportive climate. For most, this is sufficient incentive to join the project.

A story has it that when asked “How do you motivate astronauts?” a representative of NASA responded, “We don’t motivate them, but, boy, are we careful about whom we select”. The issue of motivating people to join and work creatively for a project is closely related to the kind of people who are invited to join. The most effective team members have some common characteristics. A list of the most important of these follows, but only the first is typically considered during the usual selection process.

1. High-quality technical skill
2. Political sensitivity
3. Strong problem orientation
4. Strong goal orientation
5. High self-esteem

There is no real way of ever knowing that a particular resource will be a good fit for a project team, and acquiring and motivating them can be a political mine field at the best of times, with the continuous justification to functional management that their resources are needed, and convincing them during a projects slow period is particularly taxing. The role of the PM here is to negotiate, negotiate, negotiate, and motivate as best you can. If you are good at it, and this comes with experience, not only will you get the resources you need, but they are more than likely to stay and enjoy the challenge of the project along the way, all with the functional managers blessing.