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Conducting One-on-Ones With the Project Team

~ By Brad Egeland

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I think we're all familiar with the meeting terminology 'one on one.' Just to clarify, in terms of the project - one-on-ones are meetings between two people involved in the project. These meetings are used to discuss priorities, to resolve issues, brainstorm on key decisions, to communicate overall responsibilities to the project and potentially just about anything that can arise on the project that needs to be discussed individually as opposed with the team as a whole.

When Kicking Off The Project

When starting off a project, there's more to it than just the formal kickoff with everyone intimately involved with the project. The project kickoff is key – and requires a good deal of planning and co-ordination, but it is also important that the project manager know his team and that he sets expectations with them and makes sure they understand the goals and direction of the project. Essentially, the project manager needs to make sure that each team member has all of the information they need to get started on the project. Many times – depending on the size and complexity of the project and the size of the team – this can be accomplished in a team meeting. However, sometimes it can't – especially on projects that require very specialised resources, have complicated goals, or involve risks and requirements that need a more grass roots clarification and discussion. Plus, the individual one-on-one meeting between project manager and team member can serve well in allowing each resource to get to know and understand the other and serves as a foundation for trust and understanding moving forward for two individuals who may be meeting or working together for the first time.

These team member one-on-ones should be used to clarify priorities and to discuss schedules and plans. If some of the resources have worked with you on other past projects, then some details may not need to be discussed – like management style and communication expectations. However, you will need to turn their focus away from planning and start delegating work to these people so things can start happening.

One-on-Ones Going Forward

One-on-ones with key players should also be scheduled on a regular basis throughout the project. For a short project, the one-on-ones might happen daily or weekly with key personnel. For a longer project with more players, formal one-on-ones might be monthly or even less frequent depending on the complexity of the project and the ongoing health of the engagement.

In the first one-on-one meetings, the following should be clarified and reviewed with each individual:

  • Why he or she was selected: why are they needed…what specific skill sets are needed by the project that they have to offer.
  • Individual priorities, tasks, and milestones: this is from both sides…what are your priorities, tasks and milestones for them as the PM on the project and what do they have on their plate in terms of other responsibilities.
  • Methodology: basically how you're going to manage the project…the administrative procedures and project management methods and tools that will be used.
  • Performance expectations: your expectations for them in terms of performance and commitment.
  • Challenges and issues: what you see as project challenges and potential individual challenges for the resource.
  • Processes for solving problems: basically you'll want to discuss how decisions will be made, problems will be dealt with and the communication processes for these.
  • The schedule for future one-on-ones: set expectations for when these meetings will continue in the future – discuss possible action items for your next session.

Summary

I don't always conduct one-on-ones like this. I wish I did…but tight timelines and work commitments often get in the way of best intentions. A close-knit, collaborative team that gels together is very important to project success. If that is already happening, then these may not be necessary. But they can definitely be helpful and important information or concerns may be shared that would otherwise not come up in the course of a regular full team weekly meeting.


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