How to Improve the Performance of Your Project Teams

Ever watched what happens when a new team is formed? Maybe you’ve seen a new team of little league baseball players, a music group, a civic group, or a business team. The initial dynamics can be rather rocky and uncertain, even with skilled individuals.

picture of project team

Imagine a new project team that was formed to consolidate customer service centers from 20 locations across the United States to five regional locations. The goal for Phase 1 of the project was the consolidate four centers in the Southeast to the Atlanta Customer Service Center. Here were some of the attributes of the team:

  • Resources were preassigned
  • Eight people comprised the core team
  • Each team member lived in a different city
  • Ages ranged from 28 to 62
  • Four of the team members have worked on several projects together in the past
  • Two members have never been on a project team

If you were the project manager, how would you assess the team? What steps would you take to develop the team? How would you help the team move through the team stages of forming, storming, norming, and performing more quickly?

Performance of Your Project Teams

Three Ways to Improve Team Performance

Creating project teams today can be more challenging than ever. Why? First, people don’t stay with the same organizations very long; therefore, we lose experience and relational capital. Second, many teams include virtual team members, some living in distant parts of the world.  Third, there is greater cultural diversity, team members that speak different languages and possess different thoughts, beliefs, and habits.

So, how can we create teams and improve performance?

1. Get the Right People. If you are able to pick team members, select for competency, chemistry, preexisting relationships, and attitude.

What should you do if resources are preassigned? Use your interpersonal skills to influence the resource manager and others who select the team members. If possible, make your case for the people you need.

“Researchers have found differences in individual productivity on the order of 10 to 1. Researchers have also identified dramatic differences in the productivity levels of entire teams.” — Steve McConnell (Rapid Development)

2. Enhance the Team Competencies. Whether you pick the team members or they are preassigned, you can enhance the competencies of the team. Assess the individuals and team. Develop and execute a training plan.

For example, assume you are preassigned a team that lacks the skills to develop requirements. You could facilitate a mini-workshop where you (or a business analyst) teaches the team to define, analyze, document, and validate requirements. During the workshop, the exercises could be used to actually develop some of your project requirements.

3. Improve the Interactions. Interactions come through daily one-on-one conversations, emails, team meetings, and teamwork. Be deliberate in the team’s communication and collaboration. Use meeting agendas. Encourage collaboration early by facilitating team discussions, problem-solving, and brainstorming exercises.

Taking Action

Are you ready to improve your team performance? If so, pick a project. It can be a new or existing project. If the project team has not been selected, see what you can do to influence the selection of team members. If your team has already been selected, what can you do to assess and develop the team? Lastly, as you plan your next project meeting, use a facilitation technique such as a problem-solving exercise that will improve your team’s interaction.

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