The core team represents an intense concentration of power to adjust project performance. It is the core unit of learning, continuity and accountability. However the dynamics of relying on their skills on getting the job done vs. fulfilling the real customer needs is all a balancing act. People learn – and customers are people too. Let’s have quick look on how to balance the customer need and adjust core team dynamics.
The customer need is a fixed target
Although learning is dependent on the individuals and can be regarded as upgrading the performance capabilities of the team – the customer need is something that remains a single target point in a project plan. To reach that target the team needs to adjust its performance. I have not yet seen too many research or project plans where the team would already know exactly how to do the work in advance. Learning is part of the R&D game.
The customer need is a moving target
From the customer point of view each deliverable that they get from the team will teach them more about what they want and about their own incentives. Usually this learning on the customer side equals change to the project plan. Thus the scope will change, modify and adjust. These roles and nuances are negotiated in the duration of the project. Some call it risk management, but we call it learning. If learning does not happen all mitigation and contingency plans just make us look stupid. Why did not we think of that in advance? Let’s adjust and make it better.
How to manage this problem?
The logic of solving a customer need should be the primary goal, or at least it ought to be. Client-specific tasks and requirements should lead the working plan. However this needs to be balanced to the team capabilities and to the management logic of the project. Project team goal is to excecute the project plan. When you have a target, and you recruit the core team they are temporarily joining a venture to hit a predefined target. There is only so much that can be done at time, cost and scope.
Maintaining this balance equals to getting the contract in the first place and negotiating the work with desired quality as the project progresses. I suggest that this is a key component why projects fail – they expect the plan (customer need) and resource units (team) to be static. Neither is in project actuality a fixed unit. Lessons learned is not a fixed task, but part of managing project risk.
Understanding the learning patterns in core team dynamics and customer needs requires keeping a professional distance to the abstracted object also known as “the project plan” and managing the customer need and team dynamics from a human centered point of view.