Watch what happens when new teams are formed? Maybe you’ve seen a new team of 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. Let's explore ways to improve the performance of your project teams.
Imagine a new project team that was formed to consolidate customer service centers from 20 locations across the United States to five regional locations. Here is what we know about the team:
- Resources have been preassigned
- There are eight people on the core project team
- Each team member lives in a different city
- The ages range 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?
The Challenges of Creating Effective Teams
Creating project teams today can be more challenging than ever. Why? First, people move from one company to another often; therefore, we lose experience and relational capital. Second, many team members are virtual, some living in distant parts of the world. Third, there is greater cultural diversity. Team members speak different languages and possess different thoughts, beliefs, and habits.
So, how can we create teams and improve performance?
Three Ways to Improve Team Performance
1. Get the Right People
If you are able to pick team members, consider competency, chemistry, preexisting relationships, and attitude.
What should you do if resources will be preassigned by someone else? 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, enhance the competencies of the team. Assess the individuals and team. Develop and execute a training plan.
For example, assume you have been 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.
3. Improve the Interactions
Interactions come through daily one-on-one conversations, emails, team meetings, and teamwork. Be intentional in your communication and collaboration. Use meeting agendas. Encourage collaboration early by facilitating team discussions, problem-solving, and brainstorming exercises.
How About You?
Are you ready to improve your team performance? If so, pick a project. It can be a new project or an existing project. If the project team has not been selected, be clear about the skills and talents that are needed. If your team has already been selected, determine how you will 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.