Motivating Without a Cause

Being an Integrated Product Team (IPT) lead one of the main challenge I face is motivating my team members to own the product that they are working on.  This issue is further complicated given that we are a defense company and not every team member is cleared to know the “big picture” of what the complete product is or how it will be used to defend our war fighters.  Certain team member who may not be cleared to the program are prevented from attending classified meeting or knowing additional details of the program/product that is deemed classified by the government when the contract is awarded.  These people work on the unclassified version of the product, which becomes a classified product when integrated into a complete product.  This lack of knowledge sharing enforced by our customer creates a challenging environment for me and other team leads when it comes to motivating team members.

Furthermore, since we are a matrix organization, most of the team members usually work on a multiple products.  This leads to them spending more time on products that they have more visibility on or on programs that they are cleared to work at classified level and have sense of ownership.  You can be cleared to one program and not to another due to different clearance level requirements.  I have also found that many team members seem to spend more time on critical path projects that have deadlines approaching, sacrificing time from other programs and causing them to be on critical path.  Knowing these issues, I have tried several approaches to motivate and encourage my team members. I have listed some of them below with mixed success.


1:  Provide as much details as possible of the progress of the program and about the product to the team members who are not cleared to work at a classified level without violating the contract.

2:  If the classified meeting involves only few minutes of classified conversations, then I would move the classified conversation offline and hold the entire meeting at unclassified level.

3:  Introduce unclassified team and their work to the customer at every briefing opportunity to show their work directly impacts the product.

4:  Since it may take couple years for some people to get cleared to the program, work in advance of the project start to get the team members to fill out government clearance form to get as many people cleared as possible.

5:  Ask each team members what other program they are working on and what their workload on those programs is.  I try to work with other program managers to see that both our deadlines are met.

6:  Get status updates weekly and see if there are issues preventing them from completing their tasks and if they require any support.


What do you think of these approaches?  Do you have any other suggestions that I should implement?  Have you ever lead or worked on a project without knowing full details of the finished product?  What motivated you to continue to work on it (beside the fear of being fired)?

Handling Negative Feedbacks

We all have received discouraging reviews or feedback in our lives that we wished we would have handled better or used as an opportunity to learn from it.  Feedback whether positive or negative are an important part of continuous improvement process that we all go through in our careers.  The way we handle these negative feedback defines how we function in a team environment and how we are seen by the upper management.

Everyone has their own way of handling constructive feedback, but there are some basic methods that should be employed to learn from discouraging comments from your teammates or management.

Identify the Review:  There are two types of reviews, constructive and destructive.  Destructive reviews are not usually meant to encourage you to work hard or improve yourself but to put you down and they are usually personal.  They should be ignored.  Constructive reviews may seem harsh based on how it is delivered but it still has value and will help improve your performance and image.

Identify the Source:  Not all the constructive comments may help you improve professionally.  You need to identify who is providing the review and determine whether the person or the team members are the right people to provide the comments.  Are these the people that you respect and have your best interest in mind?

Be Brave, Listen & Clarify:   As difficult as it may be for you to listen to comments about your short falling or lack of performance from the people that you respect, it is important for you understand your weaknesses.  You must keep your emotions in check in order for people to give you honest feedback. Listen carefully to understand how your performance is seen by others and ask for clarification when necessary.

Learn & Grow:  Use the feedback received as an opportunity to enhance your performance and skills. Furthermore, do not wait to get feedback from your teammates or management until annual performance review, ask for continuous feedback.  This way you will not have to wait until end of the year to find out how your work is perceived by your peers.

Overall, there many different things that may affect your performance, whether its schedule, project complexity, or something personal and not everyone involved in providing the feedback will be aware of all your situations.  However, constructive feedback are still great way of identifying your weaknesses and determining how you are seen in an organization, which will critical in your professional career.

Have you ever had a negative review given to you by your teammates or management?  How did you handle it?  Do you think the review was fair?  What did you learn and improve from it?