Working Together Towards a Common Goal
Team building is a project focused process that builds and develops shared goals, interdependence, trust, commitment and accountability among team members.
Let’s talk about rewards and recognition. We all like it, but in what form? And how far should one go to do so? Formal rewards and recognition? Informal? Pizza party or raise? Ice cream or promotion? And at what level? Completion of a project or good performance on a key task?
Ever had one of those individuals on your team that seemed to be a source of conflict on a regular basis? Or perhaps a team member who was always distracted, missed meetings, failed to complete tasks on time, or often did less than top-quality work...causing problems for you, the team, and the customer...likely even resulting in complaints to you and/or your executive management from the project customer? It’s a painful experience to go through because it damages your reputation, causes discourse on the team, and can result in ongoing timeframe and budget issues on the project if tasks are missed or work must be redone.
Remember this phrase from when your kids were little or maybe even when you were younger? You really had no concept of direction or time other than you were hungry and in your mind you should have already reached your destination by now. You're getting restless so from this moment forward it's a consistent string of questions, "Are we there yet?", "How much longer?", "How many more miles?", "Can we stop and eat?", and the popular and fear inducing, "Can I go to the bathroom?" Do you mean right here and right now? No....please don't!
Today, more and more organisations that run projects have the opportunity to enable project teams to work remotely. This opportunity has been made viable through advances in technology such as cloud computing. However, even with this progress most project managers still face difficulties when dealing with project teams remotely. Barriers do and will appear between the layers while a project is in a constant state of motion. Therefore, I have focused this article on suggestions for how project managers can manage remote teams.
Creating successful project teams is a daunting task for any project leader, especially when they are pressed to deliver results within aggressive timescales and tight budgetary constraints. Overcoming challenges such as getting the right blend of youth and experience, skills and competencies, academic qualification and professional certifications does not necessarily lead to the establishment of successful project teams.
Burnout is best described as that state wherein the job one is performing no longer seems to matter very much. When people stop caring about what they are doing (assuming they ever cared in the first place!) and only want to go home and collapse, then they might be burned out on the job. Of course, there could be other causes, but burnout is very common on large projects that are full of tight timelines and a lot of pressure to produce. Burnout happens when someone works past their endurance and mentally or physically collapses.
Hiring skilled talent is a primary function of every human resource manager. Understanding how to form a team of workers that can meld their talents to bring a large project to a close successfully requires experience, training and ingenuity. Whether you're depending on in-house HR personnel or consulting with headhunters and outside HR management systems, here is the minimum skill-set candidates should possess.
Project management is people management. You depend on the people on your project team to get results, which means they need their fair share of your time and resources. As project management skills and certification get more recognised and regarded in business, expectations get higher. Here's our reminder of how to make sure you get the most from your project team.
Quick, tell me about your employees: What are they doing? How long do they spend doing it? What should their top priorities be? Now tell me about your projects: Are they on time? Within budget? How many projects were profitable this year, last year, over the last five years? Perhaps you think these questions are unreasonable and maybe they are. But we live in an unreasonable world where every advantage should be realised.
Successful hiring is one of the key factors to operational success for large and small businesses alike. Executives should approach the hiring process as a means to both improve their existing workforce and to secure a candidate who will add long-term value to the organisation. If approached merely as a step toward replacing a lost asset, the hiring process will squander considerable resources and forfeit significant opportunity value from a potential personnel improvement. The mission is obvious, yet, according to business owners, finding the right employees can be an elusive aspiration in a drawn-out process.
For project managers, the support of their team is critical for completing projects successfully. Yet, a team's respect cannot simply be assigned like a task. Acquiring and executing project authority with the support of a full project team demands careful and skilled execution.
When teams come together, conflict is almost inevitable. Not all conflict is unhealthy though. Conflict has the potential of bringing out the best from individuals and teams and building rapport when it is directed towards the goal at hand. Only when it starts damaging the team spirit and jeopardising the common goals that it becomes a cause for concern. Therefore conflict needs to be properly identified, analysed and managed.
Building sustainable and flexible working relationships to create an effective working environment starts with the project team, but does not end there. They will also need to be built with others such as the sponsor, steering group, suppliers and of course internal colleagues. A project manager will need to influence a variety of people, sometimes without the necessary authority, to obtain information, input and commitment from them.
As Project Managers we often find ourselves needing to handle difficult conversations in order to make progress on a project. These meetings will happen with direct reports on a project team, but also with other stakeholders who we have no direct authority over, but are critical to the project success. How often do we plan effectively for any of these meetings, not just data and information, but around how we are going to handle the meeting and the people attending it?
Resolving conflicts on project teams isn't easy; but left unchecked can affect the project's outcome and team morale. It is the project manager's responsibility to manage conflicts to keep the team moving in the right direction. The best way to manage a conflict is to ensure that the parties involved in the conflict are the ones developing the solution. You can't resolve it for them; they have to come to agreement on how to resolve the conflict themselves.
Do you ever feel that you're herding a group of feisty cats instead of leading a meeting because your team members simply can't agree? Well, take comfort in knowing that this common problem plagues most meeting facilitators at one point or another. Indeed, if your group is disagreeing vehemently (but respectfully), that's a sign of healthy conflict, congratulations, you're likely on your way to some great ideas and solutions! Unfortunately as meeting facilitators, we often need to guide the group towards a consensus decision and oftentimes that just doesn't seem possible.
We've all attended meetings where participants were asked to read a document, do some research, or conduct some other "homework" prior to the meeting, but very few people actually did it. Obviously, the intent of assigning the pre-work is to ensure that all attendees are prepared, which should result in a quick, efficient meeting, right??? Wrong!!! Too often some attendees don't complete the assignment as requested, which drags down the entire group. Before you lead your next meeting, consider these tips about assigning pre-work.
As project managers, it's tempting to focus entirely on our project plan. But successful execution of your project plan is entirely dependent on your project team. And your project team is dependent on each team member! For example, if your team is all working well together except one person, who is lacking motivation and missing deadlines, than the whole team will start having trouble, and your project success may be in jeopardy.
Every team progresses through the five stages of team development; forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. An understanding of those five stages enables a manager to better understand team dynamics and assist his/her team through the five stages in order to reach a high performing team as quickly as possible.
In the course of assessing project management capabilities for clients, a practice that I've found absent across most non-projectized organisations is the evaluation of team members at the end of a project by the project's leadership. Usually, the rationale provided for this gap is that the functional managers do not consistently solicit this feedback from project managers, or when this feedback has been offered in the past, it has been ignored.
By far, the question I am most often asked during "Project Management . . . by the Numbers" has always been, "How can I get my project team to actually accomplish their tasks on time, if even at all?" After a short discussion, the question translates to, "I don't have the authority to delegate, but I am responsible for their work, both the quality and the timeliness."
Project Manager Sherry Martin couldn't stop thinking about her last team meeting as she walked down the hall towards her office. Slamming her office door behind her, she let out an exasperated scream and looked for something to punch! Her team was driving her absolutely crazy and she channelled Scarlett O'Hara as she proclaimed, "I will never run a meeting like that again!" Her problem in a nutshell boiled down to three really difficult personalities that continually recurred on her team. These personalities were indeed a cancer not just infecting the team and its results but also spreading throughout the group and impacting the other team members as well.
The phrase "project manager" is a bit of a misnomer; while project managers do manage projects, they deliver them by managing a project team that does the work of the project. How successful they are at managing that team will go a long way to determining the success or failure of the project. Perhaps the most difficult (and certainly the most unpleasant) aspect of managing the high performance team is dealing with issues of poor performance.
The Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute developed the People Capability Maturity Model (P-CMM) to help businesses manage knowledge workers across global borders, as well as between greying and millennial generations. Similar to CMMI, P-CMM has five maturity levels, but the model is focused on the need to improve the capabilities of a workforce as a differentiating factor from the competition.
Many readers have mentioned to me that they feel that a lot of the projects they sponsor (even the successful ones) are often on "automatic pilot." This typically happens once the project teams feel that they understand the problem and have decided on what they believe to be the most appropriate direction for solving the key issues facing the project.
No one will ever be able to convince me that the most challenging component of project management is the science behind it. The way in which we need to pull people together to be a high performance team over a relatively short period of time is the most challenging part of project management. This article will focus on the communication issues within the project team, in particular, the people management aspect.
You've just finished the project kick-off meeting with your new virtual team. Everyone seems clear about roles, responsibilities, deliverables and deadlines. So far, so good. But, as you think about the magnitude and velocity of the work that lies ahead, you realise how critical a well-orchestrated team communications plan will be to getting the work done. This article offers some simple guidelines to keep in mind as you assemble a communications plan to make it easy for virtual team members to communicate and collaborate.
Companies that can work cheaper, faster, and better are well-positioned to develop and market products and services that give higher value to their customers. But how do project managers and business leaders effectively manage geographically dispersed workforces?
Project managers, when you hire well, can become your most favourite person on the planet. Hiring a good project manager means you can sit back and relax knowing that the project tasks are being taken care of in a professional, productive, and profitable manner. It frees up your time, reduces or even eliminates stress, and increases your bottom line. However a bad hire can affect profits, increase stress which can kick your blood pressure up to dangerous levels and waste a tremendous amount of time and money. Here's how to hire a qualified project manager.
Browse up on your organisation's competency requirements and set more informed business directions concerning your people. Management needs a checkpoint to determine if performance meets organisational requirements, given the knowledge and skills set of the employees. This is the birth of competency analysis.
While feedback is vital to the growth and sustained success of any business, regardless of industry, employees or customer base, it may often be met with some level of resistance or uncertainty. For some, feedback seems to equate to, and therefore is received or delivered as, (negative) criticism, when in reality, this belief or response is unwarranted.
For organisations, flexing the right side of the brain can dramatically improve decision making, team building and innovation, and ultimately drive greater organisational performance. In fact, whole brain thinking is a secret weapon that successful organisations are using to evolve their business to the next level, and stay ahead of the competition. When you combine left-brained data-driven decision making skills with non-linear right-brained thinking, the result is greater insight and more well-rounded experience that will ultimately help you arrive at better solutions to complex problems.
Project management is defined as the art and science of getting work done with the active co-operation of individuals and organisations who are directly or indirectly involved with the project. This includes Senior Management, Project Sponsors(s), Customers, End-users, Stakeholders, Team Members, Sub-contractors, Vendors and Consultants. Given the reality of minimal authority and total responsibility for the outcome of the project, the Project Manager's biggest challenge consists of "Getting Work Done."
Coaching is a highly effective management tool and yet, I have met only a small number of project managers who adopt a coaching style when supporting their staff. The unfortunate truth is that many project managers do not understand coaching and have received little or no formal training.
Ironically, although resourcing production team members is a significant part of a project manager's role, very little focus is placed on resourcing the project managers themselves. Because of this, I've encountered many project managers that are overwhelmed, worn out, and in many ways, ineffective. Over time, I've developed some generic strategies to help directors allocate an appropriate amount of work to project managers. In this article, I'll discuss some simple ideas to help get started.
The principle of working together with your team should underpin how you operate. Managing people doesn't just mean acting as overseer, to see that they get their work done satisfactorily. It means involving people throughout the team in a creative role, to ensure that together you are all able to succeed.
Consider a company that is about to embark upon a project for the first time. A competent project manager is available, but this firm has never had to handle a complex project before, and now has to set up the most suitable organisation. If asked to advise, the project manager might immediately be faced with the question that often causes much controversy, should the company take all the key people destined to work on the project and place them under his/her direct control. Or, at the other extreme would it be better to have a weak or balanced functional matrix?
Inspire. Just the word itself causes us to pause and think. We may remember our own personal heroes like Martin Luther King or Mother Theresa or a teacher or mentor who brought out the best in us and showed us the power of one person.
Web collaboration technologies enable project management teams to meet virtually with full audio-visual interaction, irrespective of their multiple locations. These solutions work by allowing one team member to securely share their desktop and its content in ad-hoc or scheduled meetings with their colleagues, and allow anyone to access and contribute to the information in real time.
To maximise the contribution of project teams, a number of essentials need to be recognised. The good news is that the essentials to team success aren't expensive, don't require the expenditure of large amounts of capital or expense money, and don't require new bricks and mortar. The further news and biggest challenge is that the only change needed to be made to implement the essentials to project team success is behaviour.
As healthcare executives work to increase efficiency and decrease costs in a dynamic healthcare environment, they often undertake projects such as technology implementation, operational and process improvements and facility planning. These projects typically require the formation of collaborative teams comprising hospital leadership and staff as well as project managers and support staff from vendors and outside consulting firms. Executives must be prepared to establish efficient project teams that focus on communication and collaboration to achieve success.
The world of work has changed. It used to be that most of us worked as a part of a process, whether on an assembly line, managing interactions with customers, or any one of a thousand other processes. Processes are ongoing, repeatable and never have an ending. If the nature of our work has changed, it is important to think about some of the skills that will help us succeed in this different world.
Suppose that you as a manager have been asked to form a team for the life of a particular project. How should you set about choosing your people and forming them into a well functioning group?
The thought of "team building" often creates very diverse reactions from project team members. Many people enjoy the potential for increased camaraderie and getting to know more about their peers; others have a very negative reaction. This article looks at an alternative "stealth" approach to team building.
How often do we hear project managers complaining that they have been set-up to fail? If you're like me then quite often. I am sure that most organisations want their project managers to succeed. If this is true where does the "set-up to fail" idea come from. Could it be that the organisation doesn't have an environment that supports success?
Much is written in Project Management journals about every conceivable facet of project teams. Topics about their organisation, culture, communication with clients, problem solving skills, etc. are virtually endless. There are lots of rules, tips, and suggestions about what they should do but not as much on how to do it. If you aren't sure how, this article will get you started in the right direction.
These are interesting times for managing systems development projects. In the old days (as late as the 1980s), whenever a development project was initiated, it was necessary to form a project team at a centralised geographical location in order to expedite communications between project members. But now we live in an age of electronic communications that provides greater flexibility in terms of allowing workers to work just about anywhere.
One of the most critical aspects of project management leadership is the effective use of communication to facilitate the team process. Effective communication is one of the key enablers of building cohesive teams and is critical to the successful management of key stakeholders. The probability of communication breakdown is intensified in a virtual environment. Since virtual teams are fast becoming the rule rather than the exception, we will all be required to use these skills at some point in our project leadership careers.
Great people, people with sufficient functional skills and domain expertise can trump process, good or bad. Good process, process appropriate for the context, will help those people. But great people can overcome bad process to deliver a good product.
Many things influence project management today. When we look at projects today compared to fifteen or twenty years ago, we notice a big change. In the old traditional setting, the boss might not even ask for any input, but today team involvement is critical. In a team setting, people are encouraged to give ideas and make decisions. This change governs how projects today are run.
Human Resource Management is needed everywhere. At home, at the office, and especially when working on a project with a group of people. Using human resources during a project requires getting the most effective use of the people involved with the project. This includes everyone associated with the project: sponsors, customers, partners, and individual contributors. There are three major aspects of project human resource management: organisational planning, staff acquisition, and team development.
"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organisational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results." - Andrew Carnegie
"Teamwork is so important that it is virtually impossible for you to reach the heights of your capabilities or make the money that you want without becoming very good at it." - Brian Tracy
"A major reason capable people fail to advance is that they don't work well with their colleagues." - Lee Iacocca
"The greatest danger a team faces isn't that it won't become successful, but that it will, and then cease to improve." - Mark Sanborn