Yes of course the technical skills of project management involving Work Breakdown Structures (WBS), Critical Path Analysis (CPA), floats and risk management plans (RMP) are important, but NEVER underestimate the importance of teams and team-working.
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?
Top Tip 1: Selecting Your Team
Take care to choose the right people. Select people for their skills and abilities as they apply to each new project. Avoid thinking that you always need the person most qualified in absolute terms – you need the person most qualified for your specific project. Concentrate on the skills needed for the job in hand and NEVER be seduced by a potential team member sporting lots of qualifications and a record of training courses as long as your arm.
You will almost certainly need a mixture of team members with a different set of skills and abilities, rather than a series of clones all with identical skills. Ensure that taken as a whole, your project team collectively possesses all the skills you need in the proportions that you need them.
Make sure that you do not 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.
Top Tip 2: Set the Tone and the Ground Rules
Do this at your very first team meeting during the forming stage of the team. Make sure that you call this at the very start of your project and that everyone in your team comes to the meeting. Lead by example, so do not be late yourself and do not allow lateness in others.
This is the meeting where you establish some of the core ways of working, values and expectations. This is where the team hierarchies and reporting structures are explored and firmed up. This is the time to remove any ambiguities or potential conflicts. You must ensure that everyone is clear about their role and responsibilities and how they will report on progress.
Top Tip 3: Setting Clear Goals
Project teams benefit from knowing and understanding the project outcomes, timelines and need to buy into a set of clear, achievable goals. One of your core responsibilities is to provide leadership and direction. Ensure that you eliminate any ambiguity and confusion. That is to say, one goal should not in any way conflict with that of another. Aim to build a team that works together with common aims, all working towards the same final outcomes and results.
Top Tip 4: Achievable Early Goals
Make use of project 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 – build in some ‘quick wins’. It is important that they are nonetheless, worthwhile goals and NOT just to tick some boxes on your project plan. 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.
Top Tip 5: Communication
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 or principles 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. Project outcomes are the results of effective project teams and the success of any team is a combination of technical excellence and expertise AND the mastery of team management.