There are two things that strongly motivate workers on project teams: money and food. While project managers may not have any control over money, either through salary or bonuses, there is some degree of control over food. My experience is that the return on investment on the salary that people earn is often questionable but the return on investment on nourishment provided to the team can be priceless if done correctly.
In a previous post, I wrote about “What’s The Return on Investment of a Slice of Pizza to a Project Manager?” In this post I want to discuss the value of a dinner team meeting.
Nourishment can bring project team members closer together. My experience has been that, during these more informal team meetings when food is provided, adversaries become colleagues and disagreements are discussed in a free and open setting. It is also my experience that informal settings where some food is provided often make it easier for the team to come to an agreement with minimal conflicts.
But for the moment, let’s change the subject and ask a few questions.
- Do you socialize with the members of your team outside of work?
- Do you know the personal interests of any of the team members?
- Have you ever met the spouses of your team members?
- Have you or your children ever met the children of your team members?
Obviously, this looks a little like what the Japanese advocate in Theory Z. One of the principles of Theory Z is that you are more likely to get more productivity out of the team members if they believe that you have taken a personal interest in them, their likes and dislikes, and their families. Furthermore, studies have shown that workers who socialize outside of the company generally are more productive than workers who never socialize with one another other than at work. (Yes, I know you all want the reference article to this and I unfortunately do not have it.)
Dinner team meetings, with the entire immediate family of each team member in attendance, can be priceless. There are several reasons for this:
- If you are like most people, you discuss your job at home with your family but your family has never met the people you tell them about.
- Your spouse may not have any understanding about project management and having a discussion with other spouses can be helpful.
- The spouses will have a better understanding about the pressure and stress that team members must endure.
- Your family will be better able to help you manage your stress and may get tips from other spouses on how they help their spouse manage stress and pressure.
In my opinion, the cost for these dinner team meetings is negligible compared to the ROI in productivity that is possible. These dinner team meetings work well on long-term projects especially when workers are assigned full time on the project. If the company balks at the cost, then perhaps a cocktail hour after work will suffice. But in any event, there is an ROI on nourishment if done correctly.