~ By Arthur Cooper
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?
Take care to choose the right people. Pick them for their skills and abilities as they apply to your particular project. You don't necessarily need the person most qualified in absolute terms, but you need the person most qualified for your specific project. Concentrate on the skills you need for the job in hand. Don't be seduced by reams of paper qualifications that you will never need.
You almost certainly need a mixture of team members each with a different set of skills and abilities, rather than a series of clones all with identical skills. Ensure that taken as a group they together represent all the skills you need in the proportions that you need them.
Don't overlook the need to choose people who can all get along with each other and work together as a team. A group of prima donnas is the last thing you want.
Do this at your very first team meeting. Make sure that you call this at the very start of your project and that everyone in your team comes to the meeting. Don't be late yourself and don't allow lateness in others.
This is the meeting where you have to make it clear who is in charge and what you expect from your team. This is where the team hierarchies and reporting structures are restated. This is the time to remove any ambiguities or potential conflicts. Make sure everyone is clear about his role and responsibilities. Delegate tasks as appropriate and make it clear who hold the delegated authority.
You must set clear achievable goals. You must set them for your team as a whole and you must set them for the individuals within your team. They must be unambiguous and they must be mutually attainable. That is to say, no one individual's goal should in any way conflict with that of another individual. In fact you want it to be in everybody's interest that each individual achieves his own goal. Design the goals accordingly. You must try to build a team that works together with common aims, all working towards the same final goal.
Make use of your goals to build team spirit and enthusiasm. Do this by setting small, easily-attainable goals early on in your project while your team is still bedding-in and settling down. Make them worthwhile goals, but goals that you are almost certain can be reached. In this way your team will notch up some early successes, which will certainly boost morale and establish a sense of pride in the achievement. Later goals that you set can (and should) be more taxing and testing, but the early successes will do wonders for the spirit of the team. This spirit will endure long into the future as the going gets tougher.
It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of communication within any organisation, and in particular within a project team. Make it your duty to ensure that everyone within your team knows what is going on. Make sure that everyone knows of outside events that will affect the team. Make sure that everyone knows their own goals and objectives and those of the team as a whole. Make sure they know the objectives of those interfacing to them and of any potential conflicts. Make sure that a problem or a delay in one area is immediately communicated to those whom it may affect.
Encourage and foster co-operation, not competition. Make sure it is in no-one's interest to keep information to themselves. Communication will come naturally if it is in everyone's own interest - and this will be the case if you have earlier ensured that you all have common mutually interdependent goals.
These guidelines on their own are certainly not enough to guarantee a fully functional and successful team, but following them will go a long way towards creating one. On the other hand, if you don't follow them your chances of success will be minimal.