I'm a big fan of live theater. My minor in college was theater, and I grew up acting in productions from church to school to local community theater. One thing that stood out during all of those productions is that you need to truly know your role and your part in the grand scheme of the play or musical in order to perform at your best.
The same is true in project management. When each participant knows his or her role in the grand scheme of a project, it helps everyone on the team perform better. Drawing from my theatre experience, I've come up with a few bits of advice as you develop your project team.
Know your range
Good actors know their limitations. Yes, you can stretch yourself and get better at your art, but some roles just don't fit certain actors. The same can be said of stakeholders on your project. The “halo” or “horns” effect can wreak havoc on your team. With the “halo” effect, you have someone who is gifted in one area and you automatically assume he will be brilliant in all areas. The “horns” effect is just the opposite. Find out what strengths and weaknesses you have on your team and adjust accordingly.
Know your production
If you're in a period drama about leprosy in the 1800s and you decide to play the role in a comedic fashion, chances are it won't work very well. The same principle applies to projects. Software development is different from hardware development. Yes, there are similarities and frameworks that you can follow, but prototypes are not beta tests wrapped up in plastic or metal. Hire or acquire the appropriate resources for the project and make sure they are comfortable and knowledgable in the environment.
Know your director
I have performed Shakespeare many times. Once, I was in a performance of "Romeo and Juliet" set in Chicago with the “mob families” as the Montague and Capulet families. Another production had "Twelfth Night" set in the Wild West. The two directors for these productions expected different things from me in my reading of Shakespeare. The thing that made both spectacular was the communication between the director and cast. We knew what they expected of us.
In the world of projects, make sure you are communicating your expectations to your team. When identifying requirements, make sure they are well documented and available for all your team leads to disseminate to the rest of your stakeholders. Use RACI or PARIS charts to assign roles and tasks. It will make a world of difference.
So think about the roles you have for your next project, and assign your resources bearing some of this advice in mind. Making sure all players know their roles can make a huge difference. To paraphrase Shakespeare in "As You Like It," (Act II, Scene VII):
“All the world’s a project, And all the men and women merely stakeholders; They have their closings and their initiations, And one project manager in his/her time plays many parts.”
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