OTTAWA — Seventy per cent of projects will fail if due attention is not paid to regional differences, a Correctional Services of Canada officer told the Strategic Project Management for the Public Sector conference Wednesday.

In

a workshop about how to manage a geographically dispersed project team, architecture and security development team manager Yves Gélinas said having strong contact with staff, especially regional supervisors is critical. Larger projects across a greater distance require attention to such isues, he said.

While one-on-one meetings are ideal, especially to kick-start a project, they are not always feasible. That’s why he said the cell phone has become one of his most useful tools for keeping in touch with people from across the country.

“”For me, it’s my office,”” he said. “”It’s important to keep in mind people in the Maritimes are not living the same thing as people in the West, we need to keep in contact with the regional supervisors.””

A project or public message board with only the most important issues on it may be beneficial, Gélinas said, as well as intranet and network information sites, individual e-mail and group lists, handhelds and electronic conference options such as NetMeeting or videoconference calls.

Gélinas noted the challenges many project managers face in retaining staff, which is why it is important to remember to take into account how people work.

“”My bosses wouldn’t be happy to hear me say this, but I think it’s important to plan more slack time for later activities,”” he said, noting it is likely people will take time off anyway to go out looking for future employment. It is also helpful to review an employee’s future prospects. This will help instill a sense of loyalty, possibly aiding in keeping staff until the end of a project. Loyalty may also have lasting effects after the job is done, he said.

“”I’m never worried about losing staff because I see that I’m gaining an ally,”” Gélinas added.

Typically staff leave because they are taking on another assignment and seeking to sustain their own personal security. Some may depart as a result of burn-out or frustration with the work situation, Gélinas explained.

While being in tune with the team is important, a project manager must also be aware of his or her own role.

“”We have to remember we’re there to manage, period, not carry out the project itself,”” Gélinas said.

He noted ideal characteristics of an effective project manager include, a self-starter, high self-esteem, people-oriented, positive at all times, a quick learner who is flexible and someone who is an honest motivator.

“”A project manager must also believe in their own ability to run the projects,”” he said.

Strategic Project Management for the Public Sector continues Thursday.

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