Walk a Mile in Your Project Team's Shoes

Have you heard the statement “Walk a mile in your customer’s shoes?” The goal is to understand the customer’s experience. How were they treated? What obstacles did they face? Was there superior customer service? If I were a customer, would I come back after this experience? These questions, and more, will help you and your company identify where improvements can be made.

I’ve had the opportunity to literally walk in my customer’s shoes when I worked for a work-boot footwear company. Even though I was a project manager in technology, I understood where the experience of selecting boots and making a purchase collided. Our team made enhancements so the buying process was more efficient. I truly believe in the value of walking a mile in your customer’s shoes.

Walk a Mile in Your Customers' Shoes

But in addition to walking in my customer’s shoes, I’ve also made it a point to walk in my project team’s shoes. I originally got the idea during season 1 of Undercover Boss. If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s where the CEO or senior exec of a company goes undercover, taking on a lower-level position. Some of what they uncover by working with their employees is eye opening.

When I start a new project, I take time to get to know my team members on a personal level. Do they have a family? What do they do outside of work? What can I do to help them be successful? Those informal conversations allows us to get to know each other better and begin to build trust.

In addition to knowing them I on a personal level, I also want to get to know how they perform their work on a day-to-day basis. Project team members are more than just a role and/or a name on a RACI. I want to see how they do their jobs. It’s not because I have trust issues. It’s because I want to know what I can do to make doing their jobs better.

I had the opportunity to work for a DNA manufacturing company (yes, you can manufacture DNA). My job was to lead the project management group, which included client and internal strategic projects. As a leader in the development of a new DNA manufacturing facility, I spent time with lab techs to see how they performed their jobs and how a new work environment could make their processes more efficient.

On another project, I spent a day with the Enterprise Architect. He tended to get grumpy (and he was the first to admit it) so wanted to know what could be done to make his life easier. I quickly learned what his day was like, where most of his issues came from and what I could do to make it better. He was still grumpy, but at least I knew how to work with him better! (My hats off to all EA’s, y’all have tough jobs)

Though your project team will be completing project tasks, it is still in your interest to spend time with them. See what their day is like and walk a mile in their shoes. You can uncover ways to make their experience as a project team member, better.

Can You Really Learn From Someone Else? | Sue Urda

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