Effective project team performance is a critical success factor in project management. This is especially true of strategic projects that require collaborative efforts in ambiguous environment and with a goal of achieving competitive results in a competitive marketplace.
Managing teams requires at least three stages. In the first stage teams are selected, in the second stage the culture of the team is established and in the third stage the culture is managed over the life-cycle of the project.
STAGE ONE. Team membership is an important determinant of team performance. In many cases it is possible to predict the outcome of a project, its possible success or failure, from the group of people assigned to the team. Unless the team is selected carefully and unless the leader is convinced that that team members can do the job, project success may be jeopardized.
IT is not necessarily true that all team members must be stars in their own right. Many high performance teams are comprised of competent but not necessarily outstanding team members. What makes the difference? Leadership! Given the right leadership, a group of competent individuals can be developed in=to a high-performance team.
STAGE TWO. Stage two requires that a team culture must be established or if an appropriate culture already exists, the culture must be reinforced. What is important is that effective team culture cannot be assumed nor can the active process of developed a team culture be ignored. An excellent example of this is the Boeing 777 team approach, which was established before the design project began and communicated clearly to project team members. It was an open team culture that encouraged constructive criticism and to a large extent it was this culture that contributed t a very successful project outcome.
There are many ways to create a team culture. Consider the process of spring training in professional baseball. In the US, teams start training in mid-February and continue for about six weeks. Every day they work on individual and team skills in preparation for the Major League season beginning in early April. Wouldn’t it be unthinkable for the Major League season to start without spring training? Unthinkable for the team to meet for the first time moments before the first game of the season
Yet most of our projects begin this way; there is no period during which we work with individuals and teams to build the kind of team culture capable of achieving high performance results.
Perhaps we need spring training sessions before each project begins.
STAGE THREE. The Boeing case example underscores the importance of deliberate team management throughout the project. This is especially true when a new culture, as was true in the Boeing case, was established. What we have learned is that it is unlikely for a team to perform at its full potential without constant monitoring and feedback. If left on its own team behavior may not be in the best interest of the project.