What do you think about this statement, ‘the people are the project’? Perhaps you want to show me a copy of your scope document and ask me to show you where ‘people’ are included as in-scope. Now do not accuse me of scope creep, because this is the part where I tell you it is implied. Implied scope? That goes against all kinds of best practices.
Now you bring me your communications plan and your human resources plan and your stakeholder management plan and you say to me, “This is where I have my people; they do not belong in the scope document”. Good, you have me on a technicality. Of course these are the right documents to help define your ‘people plan’.
And still I insist on pursuing my implied scope.
Your scope document defines the work to be completed. You take that scope and perhaps you create a work breakdown structure. So tell me, who is completing the work? Ah yes, your team. People create the deliverables. You have stakeholders (more people) reviewing and accepting the deliverables. How do you achieve your cost and scope objectives and reach your milestones? Your project comes in on schedule and on budget because of the people who do the work. Not because of the paper work you complete. It is about the relationships.
Your job as a project manager is not just to hit scope, schedule and budget objectives; it is to lead and mentor and develop your team. These are your people; they are in your care, their well-being is part of your mission.
There are absolutely project managers who cannot be bothered with all this ‘people stuff’. In fact they say things like, “I am too busy doing the work to worry about all that people stuff”. I am busy managing the project and updating the schedule and budget and making sure people don’t miss their deadlines, you know – doing the real work”. These might be people who create a communications plan and a human resources plan and a stakeholder management plan. They create these items because they were on a checklist. Somehow they understood the creation of these items as in-scope for a project manager, yet they did not understand that the actions these documents require are in-scope too.
It is definitely within your scope to get to know the people around you. Step away from your workspace and have face-to-face (when possible) interactions with your stakeholders. Think about what you know about your stakeholders. How do they want you to communicate with them? Get to know your team, what are their likes, their dislikes, their goals, what motivates them? All of this takes time and it is a dynamic process. As you get to know people better you learn more about them and as you do your relationship continues to change. Hopefully it gets stronger and better.