Project goals for the implementation team

This is a short message to the executives and business representatives who charter the development team.

Selecting projects and deciding upon the goals is an important business issue, but I want to talk about the next step. Once you know what your goals, how do you transfer this to the team?

The executive and/or business representatives have two objectives

1) tell the team what they need

2) motivate the team to do their best

This comes down to what, when, why, how, and how much.

Part 1)

The team must know what is needed, when it is needed, and what you expect it to cost. This requires a little homework. You need to describe the functional and non functional requirements, with some prioritization. What are the “must haves” vice the “nice to haves”. Are there deadlines or critical milestones? Be certain the team knows about them. Is it at least possible that more resource could be provided or is this project constrained? Be clear where you might bend and where you must draw a line in the sand. The team can plan a few alternatives for you, but they need to know what you might be able to accept.

Part 2) Motivation

Next, tell them why this project is important and why they are the right team for this job. What is the problem and what is the vision for change? What does it mean for the company? Why is this important for your customers? Don’t stretch, but give them the big picture and place this project in context. Connect this to your company’s mission. You wouldn’t spend a lot of money if this wasn’t important. Make the team feel that importance. Will this create jobs, allow the company to grow, solve an environmental problem, prevent injury?

Finally, why is this the right team? Again, be sincere and authentic. What skills are required? Did you pick them because they have a history of meeting commitments? If this is important you didn’t just take the last kids left on the playground, tell them “why them”.

Typically, you will ask for a little more than you expect the team can provide. If they come back to you and say “we can give you everything you want, when you want it, at the requested cost” your reaction is likely to be regret that you didn’t ask for more. So challenge them a little. Make them be creative. When done, make them prove they can do it, not prove they can’t. We’ll talk about that part later.

From the Dan Pink perspective, you’ve provided purpose and autonomy. You presented your goals, but gave them freedom to tell you how they will realize the goals. You’re reward will be a team that has not only freely accepted a commitment, but signed up for it publically. That is a powerful motivating factor.(See Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.  )

This is simple, make a checklist. Prepare a presentation or a one pager. Reherse it. Give the team a copy for reference.


About Bill Nichols

PhD in Physics from Carnegie Mellon University I'm a software team coach and instructor with the TSP Team at the Software Engineering Institute
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