Differentiating the wants and needs of a project team

Being a project manager involves far more than being a manager of projects.

Running a project invariably means having to work with people from all parts of the social spectrum.  You may find yourself working with a developer who enjoys her triathlons, a designer who enjoys his Grand Theft Auto, a UX consultant who has a busy family life with young children or high flying clients who want to rule the world!

We work with introverts and extroverts, optimists and pessimists. Some may estimate a task will take a mere 10 days, while others assessing the same task will estimate a cautious 20 days.

Sometimes people’s wants don’t necessarily match up with what their needs are and, in fact, they need the opposite of what they want.

Some may prefer to be left to their own devices, while others want structure. Those that want to be left alone may actually need some structure and those that want structure may not necessarily need it and are perfectly capable of completing tasks independently.

There is a big difference between the words want and need.  Sometimes people’s wants don’t necessarily match up with what their needs are and, in fact, they need the opposite of what they want.

One of a Digital Project Manager’s challenges is to convert collective individual wants in to team and project needs. DPMs may want to execute projects in their own way but should be flexible in adapting to a project team’s needs by providing a project system methodology that team members are happy to adopt. A system where those that need structure are supported by it and those that don’t need structure can refer to as they feel appropriate.

All of the above present their own challenges and are rarely easy to manage. Getting to know your team can take time, but here are five pointers that I have found useful over the years to help make an assessment on whether people know their needs from their wants and whether people are more naturally glass-half-empty, glass-half-full or like some people I know, glass-overflowing!

Be in the background

Get yourself involved at all levels.  This clearly comes with the DPM role but make sure that you understand people, understand their relationships and understand what makes them tick.


In an open office environment you can easily observe relationships around you and work out where you can help to improve team cohesion.

Speak to people on an individual basis

Always take time, whether it be at the coffee machine or at people’s desks to ask members of the team how they are getting on. Team meetings are always productive but quieter members of the team may not always get opinions across if there are one or two more dominant personalities in the team.

Don’t judge a book by its cover

How often do you think you have worked someone out soon after meeting them and then discover a different side to them (positive or negative) that you weren’t expecting?

Be patient

Getting to know people takes time so don’t try and find all the answers immediately.  Sometimes answers will come when you are least expecting them.

17 February 2015