Straight Talk on Project Management

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Every IT project needs a Dale!

“Everyone needs a Dale,” a colleague said this week referring to a valued member of our team, “He’d do anything for anyone.”  

This is one of the things I love about Stoneseed, our team, and the culture we have evolved. When we talk about someone behind their back, it’s always positive and hugely complimentary! 

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, Dale Beeton is Stoneseed’s Head of Client Engagement and, as our clients will attest, he is one of those “extra milers” that make a real difference – and not just from a business perspective.  

This particular conversation was a great example, Helen, Stoneseed’s Head of Marketing, Jamie, our Managing Director, and I were having an offsite, after-hours meeting – ok we were in the pub (White Lion, Farnsfield, Nottinghamshire – lovely). As we waited for our starters Helen received a text! Long story short, Helen had been working on something for two hours before having to leave to make the meeting, as she left Dale suggested he might take a look, which is actually Dale language for stay behind and sort it! Which he had.  

As I say, it’s not just work stuff, Jamie then shared a story of when he’d happened to mention an issue with his gutters at home, and in no time at all Dale had sent a link to a sealant product that would fix the problem. A good five minutes of us just listing when Dale had been an utter legend followed. 

“Everyone needs a Dale,” Helen said. Nowhere is a Dale-type needed more, than in IT Projects!!   

In the fast-moving, constantly changing and dynamic world of IT projects, success often hinges on the collaborative efforts of a diverse team with complementary and project-need tailored capabilities, in tune with business case, deploying the right processes. Technical skills, experience and expertise are crucial, but the presence of a helpful individual, a character who will always find THE way, someone who’s already thinking of the solution before you’ve fully articulated the problem, basically a Dale, can significantly elevate the trajectory of your project and your whole team.  

Let’s explore the reasons why helpful people are not just valuable, but vital for the success of IT projects. 

1 – They Are the Fosterers of Collaboration and Teamwork 

Your most successful IT projects will rarely have been the result of a solo effort, but often it can be a single individual who really drives collaboration and teamwork – and when it’s a colleague rather than a leader the effects can be even more dramatic.  

Andy, a public sector project leader in London told me of a colleague who embodies this. The Dale in Andy’s team is Deborah! She’s the one who will lift colleagues who are struggling, both professionally and personally, and is key in creating the positive and co-operative environment. She offers support, is willing to share insights (when invited, never unsolicited). Deborah contributes to the cohesive team dynamic by encouraging open communication. 

Recently, a complex coding issue arose and a freshly onboarded team member was struggling silently. Andy said, “Debs was the one who leant in and asked if everything was ok and having established that it wasn’t, stepped up to offer guidance, and brought in other team members and the problem was tackled collectively.” The collaborative approach that Deborah personifies accelerates the resolution of issue and also enhances the overall team spirit. 

2 – They Enable More Effective Problem Solving 

IT Project challenges and roadblocks are inevitable, so the problem-solving abilities of a team become paramount. A Dale type character excels at this, they intuitively actively participate in the solution search process, contributing ideas, troubleshooting issues, and leveraging their expertise to overcome obstacles. 

Dani is project team leader in Suffolk and relies heavily on her team’s Dale, who goes by the name of Marcus. A recent system glitch threatened to disrupt the project timeline, Marcus’ instincts kicked in and not just addressed the immediate problem, but also initiated root cause analysis, preventing similar issues in the future. 

3 – They Love and Facilitate A Knowledge Sharing Mindset 

IT project success can often hinge on the collective knowledge and skills of your team. Helpful individuals, like our Dale, exude such willingness to share their expertise that it becomes infectious. A knowledge-sharing ethos accelerates learning for all team members, creating, contributing a more knowledgeable and well-rounded team, and a positive feedback loop of continuous improvement. 

“We’ve totally got a Dale,” Chris replied when I shared the idea for this blog, “Steve is ours, he’s always up to date on the latest industry best practices and brings this knowledge to work every day. This enhances his individual skill set, adding value, but also elevates the overall proficiency of the entire team.” 

4 – They Help Spot, Alleviate and Prevent Bottlenecks, Enhancing Efficiency 

It’s scary how quickly delays can have cascading effects on your project timelines. Those super-helpful, extra mile loving individuals are quick to identify potential roadblocks and offer assistance to colleagues, actively contributing to bottleneck prevention by ensuring that tasks progress smoothly. 

Sam works in U.S. public sector IT Projects, a colleague met her on a holiday to the States a few years ago and, after they learned that they had a mutual profession, swapped notes. Sam’s energy was unforgettable! She explained how the project department operated and, like most sometimes didn’t. She shared how, when a bottle neck occurred slowing down her team starting their tasks on the Gantt chart, she’d drop into the team with the problem to help. She called it “meddling up-stream”!  

5 – They Adapt and Encourage a Culture of Evolution When Changes in the IT Landscape Occur 

The IT landscape is constantly evolving. New technologies and methodologies emerge all the time, and as Project Managers we are hard-wired to expect the unexpected. When Projects encounter unexpected changes, it is often the adaptability of our Dale types that are key attributes for success. Those that demonstrate a keen ability to adjust to new circumstances, ensuring that the project stays on track despite unforeseen challenges, are worth their weight in gold! 

Over my many (many) years, a sudden shift in market or business requirements has necessitated a change in project approach. This sometimes leads to a drop in morale, frustration at wasted work, and heaps of negativity and complaining. Dale-types embrace this change, proactively seek solutions, rally the team to focus on the best business outcome and mitigate potential disruptions. 

Which comes on to …  

6 – They Cultivate Positive Team Dynamics 

IT projects are stressful places! Teams where everyone has each other’s back are well placed to cope and in turn mitigate that stress. A PM friend Malc often cites the three “I’ves” he looks for when team building – positive, cohesive, supportive. The helpful nature of Dale-like individuals contributes significantly to this by fostering a genuine sense of camaraderie and shared responsibility and mutual success. 

As tight project deadlines approach, Malc’s improvised, ad-hoc, mini-team-builders are a godsend! From nowhere, like a magician he can produce a pack of Malted Milks and really nice filter coffee, when the team has to work late everyone’s favourite pizzas get ordered (he doesn’t need to ask) and, when it comes to celebrating project success, there is always a bottle of fizzy ready to be popped. Alleviate stress, rejuvenate the team, never let a win go untoasted. This not only improves morale but also enhances the overall productivity and creativity of the team. 

7 – They Deliver Client Satisfaction 

Very few IT projects don’t have a client or end-user who benefits from or has an expectation of the final product. Ensuring that client needs and expectations are met is crucial. Actively seeking feedback, incorporating client input, and striving to deliver solutions that meet technical requirements but also align with the client’s vision are vital. 

At Stoneseed, our Dale is called Dale! With a strong background in delivering client focussed IT products and services, he brings a comprehensive skillset and perspective to Stoneseed’s client engagement team. Over the last 20 years, Dale has worked with a wide range of public and private sector organisations, in numerous positions ranging from engineering and technical product management through to pre-sales and business development. Working closely with Professional Services and Marketing, Dale and his team actively look to develop new business and he takes great enjoyment in helping clients meet and exceed their specified requirements. He also seems to never be off LinkedIn searching for the perfect talent for your Project Management as a Service needs. 

From Dale to Malc, Sam to Steve, Marcus to Debs, from Andy to the legend that you have on your books (and I’d love to hear all about them), I’ve loved singing the praises of these often unsung heroes. If you’re missing an extra-mile-going team linchpin, or any IT Project capability for that matter, remember there’s always Stoneseed’s Project Management as a Service!    

In conclusion, the importance of Dales, or helpful individuals of any name in the success of IT projects cannot be overstated. Their role extends beyond technical expertise and experience, they drive collaboration, problem-solving, knowledge sharing, adaptability, and a commitment to continuous improvement.  

As teams navigate the increasingly complex landscape of IT projects, the presence of a Dale-type can drive your team toward success.  

If your team needs a Dale (or any project related talent from a project manager to a business analyst), get in touch. And if Dale answers, be sure to ask him about your guttering.



Find out more about Project Management as a Service from Stoneseed