In most instances, a project team is a group of individuals brought together for a finite period of time to achieve the goals of the project. They may have been recruited specifically for the project, supplied by a vendor or sub-contractor, seconded from different departments or perhaps most likely, some combination of all three.
The performance of these individuals will define the success of the project so it is therefore important to develop a sense of belonging (to the project) and a shared belief in a common goal. The Tuckman model describes four basic phases through which a team goes before it is fully effective:
The group members have just been brought together and are likely to be hesitant about their new environment, unsure of their new project team colleagues and future project developments. Members tend to be polite to one another, tend to accept authority and tread carefully. Initial contact with colleagues will reveal common ground and possible allegiances.
Individuals have started to assert themselves and to form alliances. Some conflict may arise as a “pecking order” becomes established. Aims and objectives are becoming clearer but there are likely to be different views on the best way forward. Members now have a sense of belonging to a team, are gaining confidence and are likely to challenge authority and the feasibility of the work ahead.
Internal conflicts are hopefully resolved and the team members feel more comfortable and relaxed with their colleagues & project environment. An acceptance of common values and behaviours develop with open communications and constructive cooperation. The team is working as it should be with its overall capability being greater than the sum of its parts.
The team is fully functional and has become a cohesive unit. Team morale is high with good cooperation between members and a sense of shared responsibility for the common goal. Team members are working hard and getting satisfaction as objectives are achieved.
These are ideal phases but give a good explanation of likely behaviours. The target must be to achieve Performing as soon as possible and there are a number of practical steps a project manager can take to help achieve this target:
- Co-location. Physically bringing a team together in one location is of real benefit. Even if team members are involved on a part-time basis having a project location ensures focus during project work time.
- Branding. Irrelevant of project size, giving it a catchy name and logo helps generate a strong project identify and gives team members something to belong to.
- Events. Taking the team outside of the normal project work environment and enabling them to interact in a less formal setting will provide a step-change in team relationships. This does not mean taking everyone on some death-defying white water challenge, remember it must be something that everyone enjoys!
- Team Meetings. No project can afford to enter a cycle of lengthy team meetings that waste time, but establishing a snappy 15-20 minute weekly update to the whole team works well. The ideal location would be an area of free space for people to stand. Meetings involving chairs will involve more questions and long debate. Use the meeting to make sure everyone is up-to-speed on recent events, allocations of responsibility, achievements and present feedback from customers or senior managers that most team members are not party to. Use the same format, time and location each week to give team members a solid event on their calendar. Never start cancelling or postponing meetings as they are automatically perceived as being of less value.
- Roles & Responsibilities. Establishing clear roles and responsibilities that are communicated to the entire team, not just the individual. Eliminate duplication and confusion with clarity for each project deliverable. Name those individuals who have been given ownership. Give every action or deliverable an owner.
- New Additions. Any new additions to the team should be introduced to the whole team formally if possible. Introduce the new team member individually to as many people as possible and in particular those they will work with most closely.
Being a Project Manager requires many skills and developing a strong teamwork ethic is vital to the success of any project.
Every good Project Manager should therefore spend time thinking about how best to establish their team as part of the project start-up phase. It is tempting to just focus on planning the project deliverables, remember to plan your team success as well!