project management

Project Team Motivation

The Project

Keeping project teams motivated always poses a challenge particularly when a project can span over months and sometimes years.

Over time energy levels and enthusiasm can be in short supply even among the most dynamic groups of individuals.

The problems normally start way back at the team selection stage of the project. Do you have a team of star performers? Do you have a mixture of youth, energy and experience? Or have you been landed with the corporate cast offs with whom you’re expected to perform miracles as Project Manager.

Most reasonably sized projects will consist of a good mixture of personalities and experience. It can take time to figure out the personalities and how they gel together. As with any leader your objective as a project manager is to get the best out of the team. Team changes can occur but unless you have a serious performance issue with one of the team, you are better off putting your efforts into team performance once you understand the individuals.

Selection Strategy

With large software projects there tends to be a back room team (developers) and a front facing team – test engineers and analysts. The observations here may be obvious but from a personality perspective the back room team tend to be introverts and the front facing team tend to be a little more outgoing.

So – as a strategy you need to understand your customer. To whom are they likely to respond better? Some clients and end users gain comfort from seeing the software being built and assembled so that they can better understand the risks and challenges. In this instance it may be a good idea to give them some access to allow them to meet and talk with the developers from time to time.

Do not however let them influence the scope of work in this way. Some clients are more about the use of the system for their business and are solution agnostic. These types of people will work best with the front end team. It can often be the role of the business analyst to control the expectations of the client and support the project manager.

As in life some personalities can overcome others, some will clash, and some will work well together. In the early stages of the project observe closely how the individual get on together then finalize the communication plan and meeting schedule clearly listing the attendees for each meeting and the objectives. Monitor meeting effectiveness and get feedback from all parties – this information is invaluable if used.


Once the personalities are working together and supporting each other you need to keep the energy levels high and ensure the enthusiasm for the work doesn’t die. There is a myriad of ways to do this depending on the situation.
The Project Manger should spend regular time with the team on the front line of activity. Don’t sit in the background updating charts and spreadsheets – Work With the Team.

Generally, people like to work independently. You need to judge this carefully though and this level of trust only comes with trialling this approach. Trust will come over time with delivery. Give an individual complete ownership of a deliverable and see how they perform. Risk assess the situation – i.e. what is the worst that can happen and can the team support them to be successful?

Have regular reviews of performance and processes with the team. Give everyone a chance to offer suggestions for improvement – and put it to the rest of the team to see if the idea has wings. If team members see their ideas being put into practice – there is no greater satisfaction. Once the selection and review process for ideas and suggestions is controlled and not a free for all this process will generally work quite well.

Working as a team and supporting each other is a motivating factor in itself. If the team can trust their colleagues and work together towards a common goal, the team can gain and maintain momentum. Having lesser experienced people being coached and mentored during a project by the more experienced team members is another way of building the team energy and gaining trust among the group. The lesser experienced people will be motivated by the fact they have a source of support. The more experienced people will gain confidence by training the lesser experienced people.

There are many examples of a team of individual average footballers (soccer players) performing at a higher level or as more than the sum of their parts taking on a way better team on paper and beating them. Give me a team of average people who value the team and teamwork ahead of a bunch of superstars any day of the week. The same goes for work teams.

Working as a team and supporting each other is a motivating factor in itself. If the team can trust their colleagues and work together towards a common goal, the team can gain and maintain momentum.

Make sure that you celebrate and recognize the small victories and milestones with the team as they are achieved – don’t leave it too long or it will lose its significance. Again the use of clear visual indicators and status updates here helps to get the message across to you r own team and to others.

Make the Destination Real

In order to maintain focus for everyone on the end goal. I tend to have many sessions where we discuss the final stages of the project and handover to operations. What will day 1 be like with the new system? Use visual tools & demos to make this as real as we can. Towards the end of the project I encourage the end users to engage with the project team both formally and informally to make the handover go a little smoother. Even if there are technical challenges the personal relationships that have been built up will get you through the difficult times.

Make it easy for your team to know what the priority is at any one time. I often here people stating that they have a number of things to do on a project but they are unaware of the priority. If you utilise your weekly or daily touch points to make the priority clear then the team will always know the priority.

In Summary

Choose the People that will work well together.
Celebrate the Small Victories
Keep the team focused on the end game
Make the Priorities clear.

Need help?

If you are struggling to come to terms with repetitive project issues and you need some advice or support, contact us by email: with some background on your particular issue and we’ll be in touch.

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