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The Squeaky Wheel

What is the “squeaky wheel” ?

If you manage projects long enough you will encounter a “squeaky wheel”. A squeaky wheel is that person on your program/project team that likes to make “noise”. It is that individual who will challenge your plan and your ideas but not always in a good way. This is the person that can complain and bring a level of negativity to your program or project and threaten to cause problems with the project team and the work you are committed to complete.

Over the years I have learned to assess my team early in the planning phase and look for the squeaky wheel. Squeaky wheels need your attention. I make it my business to engage squeaky wheels early to understand their needs and motivation. I tend to take extra steps to manage them closely including anticipating their concerns. Once I understand their concerns and what makes them “squeal” I work to adjust my management approach just for them. This approach will include:

  • Schedule separate one-on-one meetings ahead of the project status meeting with the team. This approach minimizes any surprises or potential negative input from the “squeaky wheel” and addresses their concerns privately.
  • Understand what makes them tick…
    • What are their concerns and how can they be addressed outside of the project team dynamics?
    • What is their motivation? Are they working for a difficult manager?
    • Is this program/project critical to their career objectives?
    • Are they under pressure?
    • Are they micro-managers?
  • Head them off at the pass…
    • Look for your squeaky wheel early in the project initiation or planning phase
    • Engage them with a positive attitude
    • Understand their needs
    • Agree on a plan/approach to bring them to a comfort level that minimizes the squeal – as best you can!