Dear PM Advisor. October 8th, 2012

Dear PM Advisor, Our company doesn't have an official prioritized list of active projects. People are working on too many projects. How do I motivate team members to work on my projects?

Entertainer in Massachusetts

Dear Entertainer,

You have the right idea. Keep them entertained and they will work on your projects. The problem, as you have figured out, resides above your pay grade with senior staff. They are the people who need to own the PM process and need to prioritize projects and fully resource the top priorities.

In the absence of this priority list, people will prioritize their work however they see fit. Some do work on a First In, First Out (FIFO) basis, some FILO. Some will prioritize alphabetically, some will refuse to work on projects sponsored by those who root for a different football team. Most will follow the squeaky wheel syndrome and will work on activities that they are being bugged about by vocal project managers.

You ask how to motivate your team members. That's easy. Get to know your team members. Take them out to lunch, do a 'beers and peers' session after work. Find out what motivates them. It will be different based on their personality type, their interests, their ambition. Then set out to keep them motivated in an individual way.

Try 'Reward' Power:

You have power as a Project Manager to motivate them with reward power by asking management for a certain percentage of the project budget to be doled out at your discretion for this purpose. Determine your team member's interests and get them gift certificates at their favorite restaurant, gallery openings or sporting events tickets that make them feel like you really know them. Then give these out when they "Go beyond the call of duty." Do this every couple of weeks or on a monthly basis for a long project. They word will get out that you care about your team members.

Try 'Expert' Power:

You were put in charge of this project because you were recognized as a competent manager. Share your knowledge with those team members who want to get ahead in the world. Mentor them, share books and advise on great courses you have attended. Share political knowledge about upper management.

Look at Maslow's needs pyramid:

Look at the below pyramid and decide where your team members are. If they are barely surviving, money will motivate. If they are beyond this, they may be better motivated with a challenge.

Be the squeaky wheel:

If you keep asking about the progress on a certain task, the easiest way for the team member to get you out of their office is to complete the activity. Do this sparingly where all other methods shown above have failed.

Don't use 'Coercive' Power:

Some PMs have authority to punish those who work on your project. This can be done with poor reviews, withholding project bonuses, even reprimands and firings. That may work on your current project but you'll have a hard time finding team members for your next project.

Any other ideas, readers?

Good luck!

PM Advisor

Send me your questions at Bruce@RoundTablePM.com