The influences of fear within the project team can be immense. Uncontrolled anxiety is capable of overwhelming people and putting your initiatives at risk of failure. Fortunately, the right steps can help your group conquer its fears and get back on the road to consistent project success.
Addressing and managing fear requires a multi-prong approach. You’ll need to develop better processes internally so you have an early warning system when it comes to risk factors that could foster a fearful environment. From there you can work to mitigate the negative impacts of fears that may arise and keep your projects moving forward.
Nurture healthy communication channels. The ability to share information without fear of reprisals is key to mitigating a number of fears that often exist within the project team. The fear of relaying bad news, for example, is a common one for employees. Team members should feel confident the information they’re sharing is accurate and current, and they should also know they won’t be subjected to blame or ridicule if a high-ranking sponsor is upset by the message. Timely communication is also important and provides adequate opportunity to address the issues raised before it’s too late. When robust communication pathways are in place, information moves faster and transparency is improved, both of which will help to allay your team’s fears.
Involve the right people in the planning process. Getting in front of fears about resource shortages requires good data and expert insight. If you’re worried you’ll run through your funding or that you won’t have enough people to execute tasks according to the timeline, then you need to ensure your project plan is built on highly accurate estimates. Involve knowledgeable individuals in the process and gather insight directly from those who will be doing the work whenever possible. With sound foundational data, you don’t need to worry about padding your budget, time, or staffing estimates. You’ll also be better equipped to push back against unrealistic expectations at the executive level, giving your team more confidence the project plan is workable and achievable.
Develop a culture of continuous improvement.It’s important to adopt a process that enables your team to look at the results of previous projects and learn from any mistakes or missteps. Prioritize these post-mortem reviews, as they’re instrumental in spotting problems that occurred—sometimes just once but oftentimes fear is driven by failures that are repeated across several efforts—and trace them back to their root cause(s). You can then identify opportunities to change existing practices for better results and implement actions that will lead to better outcomes on future projects. A carefully developed and properly managed continuous improvement program is absolutely key to putting an end to the cycle of fear and moving your team toward more consistent project success.
Create an environment of engagement.Your team shouldn’t feel they’re alone in moving a project to completion. Good results hinge on collaboration—with sponsors, senior management, and other departments inside the organization. Strong engagement with stakeholders is crucial to project success. Address your team’s fears of finding themselves without adequate support by raising awareness of potential issues early. Collaborators may then be able to help devise workable solutions. Be clear on expectations and needs to give sponsors the opportunity to be proactive in securing resources and eliminating roadblocks. Discuss any remaining concerns with supporters and be candid about what a lack of support could do to the project’s fate. An understanding of what’s at stake can often help cement the partnership. Worries about scarcities can be removed and your team can focus on a successful completion.
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