~ By Dick Grimes
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.
For example, "high performance work teams" has been a catch phrase for a long time. Everyone wants to create one or think they are a part of one. But how would a project manager actually develop one? If you aren't sure, this will get you started in the right direction.
"We will design a document processing workflow that is capable of processing at least 1,500 documents (quantity) daily (time) with no errors (quality)." 25 words or less helps you keep it simple and the project team members focused on the desired outcome.
There should be much greater detail about desired deliverables in the project scope, of course, but a simple and direct summary can be very useful for the daily workings of the team. For example, any decision that a team member may be facing can be simplified by using the mission statement: "If doing task X helps us get closer to processing a minimum of 1,500 documents a day with no errors, we should do it. If it doesn't serve the mission, don't do it."
Publish the few team positions and what you expect from each. For example, team leaders may be responsible for project-focused tasks such as conducting weekly meetings with their sub-teams with minutes kept and distributed; scheduling and tracking work schedules; collecting specific reports weekly, summarising them, and forwarding to the project manager; resolving conflicts between members or with other sub-teams.
There is also a critical team-focused task simply called "teamwork". Expectations within this may include reliability, co-operation with others, helpfulness, and knowledge sharing. This reminds team members that we have obligations to each other as well as to the client.
This takes us back to grade school when we always knew how we were doing before the report cards came out. The teacher had a grading scale against which we compared the feedback we received from scores on homework, book reports, and tests. This allowed us to self-regulate our performance whether we wanted to make the honour roll or just keep our grades high enough that our parents didn't ground us.
A project team member's expectations may be expressed like this on a 1-5 scale where 5 is most desirable and 1 is least desirable. A 3.0 score is considered the "least acceptable."
Project team leaders performance assessment scale for submitting a project report is:
You can use a similar technique for the "teamwork" requirement. Distribute a questionnaire among the team members asking for their opinion on a sliding scale of 1-5 where 1 = "never see this" to 5 = "always see this". Include an option of "not observed" for new members who don't feel they have been there long enough to make a fair assessment.
Please rate your assessment of each team member's behaviour in these areas:
The performance score of an individual team member in these teamwork categories would be the average of the responses from team members for each of the four behaviours above. Again, an average of 3.0 would be the least acceptable score.
A project manager can shift much of the weight of managing the team members from his or her shoulders to those of the team members by putting in place the expectations and a performance assessment system before the project starts. This way, the team members can determine for themselves how they are doing without having to wait to hear it from the project manager.
Then conduct assessments (report cards) on a regular schedule during the life of the project. This way, the team members can decide for themselves whether they want to achieve the project's "honour roll" or just get by so the project manager doesn't "ground them".
There are a few simple things that can prepare the team member to become as effective as possible on your project team. This assumes, of course, the project manager has already determined they are qualified to become a project team member.
This gives the project manager assurance each member clearly understands the project's mission; the project manager's expectations of them; what they can expect from the project manager; the performance assessment system; and the frequency of performance assessment periods "the report card grading period - every six weeks."
Also, access badges or any other unique requirements or equipment can be issued at this time.
There are at least three things the project manager should do as an on-going practice leading the team that are not associated with any specifics of a particular project. These deal with fundamental human motivation and morale.
The hardest thing about delegation for many project managers is keeping their hands off delegated tasks. Naturally, the project manager is ultimately responsible for the project and it is very tempting to take back something delegated if it looks as though the project may be impacted adversely. But if you have done a good job of preparing the project environment and selecting team members, they will be able to deliver the project for you. Remember, as long as they give you the results you want, you don't have to also control how they get the results. Give them a chance to be creative and try doing things a little differently. If they come up with innovations that will save you time and money, don't you get the credit?
This gives you the opportunity to spot future "high potentials" and allows them a peek at the world through your eyes. Each side can learn something useful about the other and when it comes to problem solving, none of us is as smart as all of us.
Richard ("Dick") Grimes uses his 30+ years experience in training and operations management for private and public organisations.