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Working with experts

Working with experts 10.01.2017 - There are many situations in project management when the project team needs specialist input from an expert. Architects and engineers are examples of people working in projects who sometimes have to consult other experts because they simply don’t know the answers to all the questions they encounter. For example, they might need specialist information about the composition of a material, or the advice of a fire safety expert, or someone who can use a thermographic camera or a sonic measurement device. These are all obviously construction project-related examples, but specialists are often consulted in all kinds of projects. It’s the project manager’s job to coordinate and support these experts, as well as their feedback or input, because it is that feedback and input that will help the project team to bring the project to a successful conclusion and ensure that the customer is satisfied with the deliverable.
 
Guiding experts
 
Supporting and guiding the experts in their work is no easy task. Many experts aren’t used to working in a team. They differ from the regular project team members in that they like to work at their own pace, and they speak and think in their own technical jargon. On the other hand, it’s also important to let the experts think and work independently so that they can contribute the necessary specialist input for the project. So the project manager has to let the experts do their work while ensuring that their input is delivered on time, understood by the other members of the project team and effectively integrated in project processes.
 
How experts think
 
Many experts find it difficult to deal with approximate information and process inconsistencies. As scientists, they are used to logical processes and factual information. They appreciate being given clear instructions and precise briefings. When working with experts the project manager has to focus on communicating with clarity and logic. Clearly defining the expert’s task also provides a clear outline of the problem or issue that everyone involved can understand. This has the additional benefit for the project that the expert’s feedback or report will be equally clear and precise.
 
Communicating with experts


Communicating with experts and functioning as an interface between the project team and the experts, or sometimes even between different experts, are all part of the project manager’s job. Good listening skills are particularly important in this respect. First and foremost, the project manager has to try and understand what information the expert has to provide and what input he needs to be able to provide that information. The project manager doesn’t necessarily have to understand how the expert arrives at his conclusions, but he should ensure that the expert has all the information he needs to make a sound appraisal of the situation and deliver recommendations on decisions that the project manager has to take. If an expert attends a project meeting the project manager should always specifically ask for his opinions and contributions. Experts rarely contribute to a discussion without being asked to so do because they are only temporarily involved in the project process. The project manager therefore has to ensure that the expert says everything he wants to say and that his information reaches the people in the project who need it. It’s no disgrace to admit that you don’t understand everything, and the project manager should always ask an expert to provide a simpler explanation in layman’s terms, if necessary. It’s always a bonus in any project if every member of the project team understands what the expert says.
 
Coaxing optimum results out of experts
 
When experts are called into a project so that their knowledge and expertise can be utilised to the project’s advantage, the best way to obtain that knowledge and expertise it is to provide them with an environment in which they can work optimally. They also need plenty of time, space and freedom and, last but not least, access to the information from all project participants that they need to do their work. The project manager’s task is to ensure that all of these things are provided. After receiving a clear briefing on the job to be done, the expert needs a liaison contact on the project team. Many experts view complex issues and problems as a challenge and motivated to find a solution. The project manager can take advantage of this motivation, depending on their field of expertise, as a source of new and creative suggestions for the project.
 
Project management with experts
 
A project team is a temporary entity that unites very different people from very different fields of work. Experts who are called in to assess just one aspect of the project are a part of that team for an even shorter time. Despite this, the project manager has to ensure that they are effectively integrated into the team.

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