When you are planning a project one of the first things you try to nail down is the budget and schedule. How long will it take to deliver the project and how much will it cost? A good PM will have a idea of what the timeline and cost would be for a specific type of project based on scope. A great PM will bring his or her team in, share the scope of the project and let them contribute to (if not drive) the estimate and schedule.
You’ve probably heard the adage “Plan the fight or fight the plan”. Yes the PM is held accountable for the overall budget, schedule, scope and quality of the project, but that doesn’t mean that the team should not participate in the planning process. They will be doing the work after all; doesn’t it stand to reason that they have a voice in the planning phases as well? Team members performing the work need to be given the authority to determine their own estimates based on task complexity, their own skill level and known unknowns (more on this in a future post). But with authority comes accountability. When team members have the authority to plan their own estimates, accountability for meeting those estimates must also be part of the deal.
There is a cost to this approach – planning meetings are not inexpensive. Often times they can be hours spent as a team in the boardroom white-boarding the approach, decomposing the work to manageable tasks and playing estimating poker to come up with reasonable estimates that everyone buys into. While this cost can be seen as excessive to some (“why do we need the whole team in planning, can’t the PM do it by himself?”), rarely is it ever considered a waste when the project is successful.
By giving your team members a sense of ownership by way of planning their own estimates and tasks, the accountability factor goes way up and team members will inherently do whatever they can to deliver what they promise. This does not replace the need for PM’s to constantly be monitoring progress and removing non-technical roadblocks to let their teams succeed, but it does significantly increase the probability of a project coming in on time and on budget.