Project Managers Need to Focus on the UX: Their Own!
By J. LeRoy Ward, PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CSM, GWCPM, SCPM | Executive Vice President – Enterprise Solutions, IIL
Odd title, I know. What does it really mean? Let me phrase it as a question. What’s it like to work with, or for, you? In other words, what’s the “experience” you provide to “users” when they engage with you?
Today, UX, or user experience, is of paramount concern among product manufacturers and service providers. Take Amazon, for example. As a Prime User, the UX of logging on, ordering, and receiving products within two business days (here in the U.S.) is almost “frictionless” as they like to say. It’s quick, easy, and accurate.
Returns? Not a problem. Tracking an order? Piece of cake. Delivery to my mailbox (or door if the package is too big)? The United States Postal Service has it down pat, and they even deliver on Sundays! That’s the UX that Amazon provides its customers.
But UX is also key in service delivery as well. Checked into a hotel recently, or rented a car, or went to the grocery store, or went to the bank? What was that like? What technologies have these industries instituted that made your experience better, faster, or more convenient? O.K., you get the point. Now, let’s turn to you.
What type of UX do you provide to your client? Is it frictionless? For example, do you:
- Respond quickly to questions or issues?
- Always have the latest progress information on hand?
- Anticipate their needs and reach out when required?
- Share the bad news along with the good so they always know where they stand?
- Show up on time, prepared for whatever meeting or event is scheduled?
- Have a positive attitude?
- Show creativity and flexibility in handling project matters?
- Conduct your affairs with a high level of integrity and honor?
- Place the client’s needs above yours or your company’s?
- Do what you say you’re going to do, and in a timely manner?
On the Net Promoter Score survey, when asked, “Would you recommend [Your Name Here] to a family member, friend, or business colleague?” Would your client answer YES?
If you can answer Yes to all the questions above, including the Net Promoter Score, then your personal UX is at a very high level and you’re doing well. If not, you might want to start thinking about another approach.
What about your team? How would they evaluate your UX as it relates to your relationship with them? In almost every Project Management 101 course and text where we, as project managers, are advised, if not admonished, to negotiate for the best team members we can find in our organizations, it’s as if there are folks out there who would jump at the chance of being on our team. Just like when you were a kid and you were waiting to be selected for the best baseball team in your local sandlot games.
But are your work colleagues really “hoppin’ from one foot to the other” waiting for you to negotiate hard to get them on your team? It depends. It depends on how you treated them the last time they were on your team.
I have always counseled project managers to ask themselves one key question regarding team members. “Why would anyone want to be on your team?” One thing I always did on projects was to meet with each team member individually and ask them what they wanted to get out of working on this project. If I could help them meet their goals I did; if not, I’d let them know.
At least they knew I was making an attempt to help them grow professionally. But that’s not all of course. Treating people with respect is just table stakes in this era. People want to have fun, be creative, and come to work excited about making a difference. If you can provide that type of environment, your UX will be off the charts.
How do you know what your UX is? Start by asking your Sponsor and manager. Then have some “crucial conversations,” as some pundit once wrote, with those closest to you whom you know will be honest. If you don’t like what you hear, you can start working on those soft skills that really make a difference.
Hitting project “home runs” is not just about meeting deadlines and budgets; it even goes beyond bringing benefits to fruition. It’s making people feel great about their experience working with, or for you. In the end, as another maxim puts it, “people may never remember what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” That’s your personal UX. Make it the best it can be.
J. LeRoy Ward is a highly respected consultant and adviser to Global Fortune 500 Corporations and government agencies in the areas of project, program, and portfolio management. With more than 38 years of government and private sector experience, LeRoy specializes in working with senior executives to understand their role in project and program sponsorship, governance, portfolio management and the strategic execution of projects and programs.