It’s never an open and shut case when it comes to people. This blog looks at a couple of archetypes I have observed whilst working on projects that if left unmanaged can seriously impact your ability to deliver. I should caveat, that people meeting these archetypes are almost always well intentioned. In most cases, they simply have an inability to connect the dots surrounding how their behaviours are negatively impacting overall project health.
The Scope Creeper
This is the person that you sit down and reach an agreement surrounding a given outcome or course of action. Then, at the eleventh hour, they present you with an additional “must have” requirement. Out of good faith, and presumably because the business justification adds up, you scramble to try and accommodate this addition. Once you heroic efforts have delivered, this individual will then present you with yet another must have requirement. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a Scope Creeper… This is an individual motivated solely by quality with no regard for time or cost. These people are not as common in your direct project teams, but often exist in the wider project stakeholder network. They are commonly pushing to get your project to solve an operational issue that they have been failing to solve due to lack of resourcing or some other root cause. Look out, because whilst they may be trying to do something good for the business, it will regularly not be something that is intended to be delivered by your project.
The Too Busy
This person is can often be identified with a quick Q and A. Start by asking them how they are going and if they will give you a stock response like, “flat out”, follow on by asking them questions like “what’s keeping you so busy and why?” When they respond in a frustrated manner with something like “so and so changed his mind again and told me blah” you could be dealing with a Too Busy. These poor souls have great commitment, but little ability to plan and/or challenge the status quo. It is for this reason that they just keep accepting work and setting an unrealistic expectation that they have the capacity to deliver. This ultimately this results in a number of crushing failures as they continue to over promise and under deliver. These people often work some of the longest hours of anyone in your team and can often be the first to arrive and the last to leave every day. Sadly they often operate at a fraction of the efficiency of their counterparts that tackle their work day in a structured manner. It’s important to identify these people early and keep a close eye on how they are progressing with project tasks. It’s likely they will not be proactive in advising you when things are getting out of hand. Another big risk with Too Busy’s is their over commitment can drive them to skip steps in order to keep up with their workload, which will ultimately lead to low quality outcomes.
Wouldn’t you love to never be wrong? Well I’ve got the answer, never make a decision. The unfortunate side effect of this behaviour is that you’ll also never be right. Mistakes, failure, embarrassment are all key to change and achievement. If you aren’t experiencing them, learning from them and improvement from them, it’s likely you are on a treadmill and going nowhere. Anti-decisionists fear failure and as a result will not make a decision out of a fear of being wrong. You can commonly identify these individuals by tying them down to yes / no or true / false decisions, they become very uncomfortable in these situations and will offer up a litany of reasons why it’s not that simple... To be fair, some things do need time and consideration, but when a person can’t provide you with a clear course of action and follow up date, it’s likely you are dealing with an anti-decisionist.
This is by no means a definitive list of archetypes, it is merely a few that I commonly encounter. These people are rarely malicious, and a lot of the time they don’t even realise what they are doing is negative. For this reason, it’s important that when you identify these behaviours you work the people to make the necessary changes. Often a little bit of coaching in a secure environment will lead to positive outcomes, not only your project, but the also the person and the wider business.