Article Overview

In this article, we cover five major external factors that can interface project managers and their team's performance.

Table of Contents

  1. 1. Organizational Culture 
  2. 2. Availability of Talent 
  3. 3. Workplace Environment
  4. 4. Tools and Resources
  5. 5. Market Trends and Forces
  6. Final Thoughts

As a project manager, one of your most important concerns will be how to guide your team to achieve set goals. To achieve those goals, you’ll be expected to demonstrate strong leadership skills, carefully manage the dynamics of your team, organize and motivate them, and ensure important milestones are reached on time.

Yet, despite your best efforts, there are always external factors that can interfere with your team’s performance. These are things that you don’t have much control over. However, because they may be beyond your control doesn’t mean you can’t adapt. In fact, your ability to identify, prepare, and respond to these influences may determine the stability and progress of your team.

Here are five major major external factors to be mindful of.

1. Organizational Culture 

Your team is a subset of a larger organization. This organization has its unique cultures, procedures, and policies that affect what happens in your unit. You may be a great project manager, but if there are negative practices in the organization as a whole, they can affect your team’s productivity. 

For example, where the overall culture of a company encourages friendliness and professionalism in top management’s conduct with staff, customers, and suppliers, it encourages an environment of productivity, increased feedback, and progress. On the other hand, a negative and punitive culture leads to employee dissatisfaction, high employee churn, and absenteeism. This is the reality as confirmed by several studies including this one by the Harvard Business Review

Other common aspects of a company culture that can have a major impact on your team are poor incentives and remuneration, unrealistic workloads, poor communication, and a lot of unnecessary administrative tasks at every step. Identifying and understanding these issues will help you manage the situation as best as you can.

2. Availability of Talent 

Workforce shortages are becoming a challenge in several industries including engineering, manufacturing, and construction. According to the reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), recruiters are having a harder time than ever finding qualified applicants. 

If you operate in an industry that is experiencing talent gaps, it can have a significant effect on your entire team in the following ways:

  • Qualified team members frequently leaving your company to seek better opportunities elsewhere.
  • Project delays due to a longer recruiting process.
  • Increased risk of employing less qualified staff than intended.
  • Spending time to train new entries from scratch.

In such situations, you may need to put in some extra effort to fill the available positions. For instance, you could try leveraging your professional network to solicit referrals, or to find suitable candidates to headhunt. Also, you can partner with colleges to identify potential talent or do some paid promotion on sites like LinkedIn which have a large pool of job seekers with different levels of experience.

3. Workplace Environment

The workplace environment has a major effect on the performance and productivity of any employee as team morale and health can be directly affected (both positively or negatively) by the workplace environment. 

Factors like temperature, air quality, lighting, cleanliness, hygiene, and noise in the office will certainly affect their ability to focus on the tasks at hand and deliver the required results. 

Take temperature, for instance. Numerous studies have repeatedly demonstrated the effect of indoor temperature on task performance in an office environment. The recommended temperature range for ideal workplace conditions is between 23-26°C (summertime) and 20-23.5°C (during winter). Of course, individual preferences will differ, but the general idea is to provide “thermal comfort.” That is, people wearing a normal amount of clothing should feel neither too cold nor too warm. 

Temperature is just one of many factors. No one wants to work in a dark, dingy, and dirty office, and one of the best ways to avoid being preoccupied with the physical conditions in your facility is to employ the services of a facility manager

They are trained to implement and run maintenance systems to support well-functioning buildings. Part of that is making sure that systems like the HVAC, lighting, plumbing, etc, all function without unplanned interruption. They also often use CMMS software that allows anyone in the office to quickly submit a work request if something isn’t working properly. They just need to visit a URL, describe the problem, and click submit.

At the end of the day, it is not hard to understand that your team stands a better chance of delivering superior work when they are physically comfortable.

4. Tools and Resources 

It’s one thing to require superior work from staff but do you know if they have what they need to get the job done? Most of our work today happens with the aid of machines and gadgets. If your team doesn’t have the tools and equipment required for their respective jobs, it will negatively impact overall performance. 

And it’s not enough to ask if your team has the tools and resources at its disposal. It’s also important to audit the condition and suitability of these tools at intervals because outdated and clunky tools are almost as bad as none at all.

Here are a few key things you can check:

  • Physical tools such as machines, instruments, spare parts, and consumable supplies. 
  • Safety protocols, work procedure manuals, job aids, and record-keeping tools.
  • Internet connectivity, computers, and communication systems.
  • The quality of your software solutions.

I want to give special attention to software solutions. For example, you surely use project management software. What if your provider had server issues and you couldn’t access your projects? What if they made a significant workflow update that isn’t necessarily a move in the right direction or if it just takes a lot of time for your team to get accustomed to new options? What if there is simply a better option on the market that can save you more time on everyday tasks?

An average office worker uses a lot of apps in their job. Being on the lookout for better alternatives is never a bad idea.

5. Market Trends and Forces

Whatever industry you operate in, your activities are influenced by certain market forces and trends. They include new technology, government policies, economic conditions, consumer demand and supply, etc.

For example, new regulations may require that you make significant changes to your team’s workflow. Or improvements in technology may require that you deploy more modern and agile methodologies, tools, and techniques all within a specified period. 

The effect on your team is that work will need to be done differently moving forward. To thrive under these conditions, it’s important that you build an agile workforce that can quickly adapt to new changes.

Final Thoughts

Getting the best out of your team doesn’t have to be an uphill task, though it may seem that way sometimes. If you find that you constantly struggle with achieving performance targets for your team, it may be time to dig deeper. 

Doing so may reveal that subpar performance is the result of factors beyond your control. This knowledge will put you in a better position to respond to the situation.