Being a Life Saver - Onboarding New Project Team Members

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In general, when the new shiny project appears - we forget to on board ourselves with other roles such as the project manager and other team members. We assume we all know what our roles are and what we are going to deliver but most of time we aren’t quite singing the same song. That's why when someone new joins the team that on boarding is so important to the project. The best time to set expectations of activities that are to be performed by each team member is best.

Do we “on board” new project team members? In today’s busy organizations individuals are shuffled around all the time being assigned and unassigned almost daily to projects. We employ the “sink or swim” mentality. New person it’s your job to figure it out and get it done.

A few projects back I was on a project and a new guy started to help out with screen and report design. The manager gave them a quick introduction “Here’s where my office is and your timesheet is due Friday – talk to Sue about the rest of the details. I’m off to a meeting”. The manager pointed in the general direction of a sea of desks. Poof. Manager gone. New guy alone in a sea of cubicles.

I ran across the poor new guy searching for his desk. A quick tour and we located his desk. “Wow this is a bad on boarding experience”, I thought.

The next day I ran across the new guy searching for a conference room. Sue, who was the lead on the project, swung by his desk at 5pm to let him know about this important meeting on the screen design. “Looking for the conference room?”, I asked. A quick nod and we walked toward the conference room. “Do you know anything about this project?”, the consultant asked. “Sure”, I said a bit surprised. The new guy didn’t even know the name of the project and only recalled a few things talked about in the interview.

The meeting was completely confusing for the new guy as no one introduced themselves on the conference call or in the room. Although new guy was madly taking notes at a break neck speed, it was clear by the glazed over look not much was making sense. I pull him aside after the meeting and asked how things were going. He just shook his head and asked “Can you help me get a better handle on this project? What’s it even called anyway?”. I looked at my calendar and figured out a time we could talk. I went to his desk and we sat down to talk about the project.

I laid it all out on the desk:

Name of the project: This project is called Zeus. It’s called Zeus because it’s the name of the project manager’s prize winning pointer – although management thinks it’s about king of gods or something.

Business Value: The reason this project is important to the business is because it will help them process sales and ship product 50% faster. Our competitors currently can get an order and ship in the same day. We can’t and we are losing customers.

Business Solution: We are putting in a COTS solution to handle online sales, telephone orders and project shipping. This requires we integrate with our current web site and product inventory systems.

Context Diagram: How this solution works with other systems and teams was laid out on the table to set the boundaries of the project.

Stakeholders: Reviewed who the stakeholder were and how much they supported the project. Customer service agents loved their old system and don’t want to change at all. Accounting is pushing hard for it because they have a bad interface with their accounting software that makes invoicing a nightmare. Sales and Marketing are demanding and angry it’s taking so long.

Project Team: Review the roles and responsibilities for each team member and what they are responsible to deliver.

New Guy and I talked for 3 hours. It’s was a great conversation and he was a thousand times more comfortable with the project. Next we took a walk around the floor and I showed him where everyone sat (stakeholders and IT folks), made introductions and got some questions answered for both new guy and me. In a half a day he was ready to start meeting with stakeholders on screen requirements and design.

On boarding does take a lot of time but if it’s done right it will save even more time. We all need that one to one moment where we can be brought up to speed on a project. Should the lead on boarded the new guy? Manager perhaps? Maybe – Maybe not. Having a peer that is on the same level might be better. There is less of a filter there to learn the background of a project.


Author: Bob the BA

Bob the BA provides badass business analysis training, consulting and mentoring services. Bob is passionate about helping you think, learn and work differently. Bob is CBAP® certified with 25+ years of experience. Bob has presented at numerous conferences and training sessions across North America.


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