By Linky van der Merwe
New project managers will find it challenging to organize, manage and lead a project team. The project team consists of people with assigned roles and responsibilities for completing the project. Project team members have varied skill sets and they may be assigned full or part-time. Team members may be on-site, or co-located as it’s called, or remote in which case the project manager needs to know how to deal with a virtual team.
It’s key for project team members to be involved in decision making and project planning as that will add their expertise to the process and strengthen their commitment to the project.
The various roles in a team will depend on the nature of a project. Normally there will be core team involved through-out a project, but the team structure will change at each stage to meet the evolving nature of a project. Roles may include examples like Business Analysts, Designers, Developers, Application Specialists (IT context), Testers and more.
For example, you may have a high-powered team to define the business solution, followed by a broader team, including virtual team members, to deliver it, then a smaller operational team to operate it.
Quite often, especially on complex projects, there are different work-streams or sub-projects happening in parallel. For example, on a new website project (or replacement of an existing), a website designer might be working with business managers and network specialists to create a storefront, another website designer is working with different business managers and developers on an intranet application to present management information on sales. This is where you end up with a project team as a matrix where various resource types need to work together to share knowledge and to create a consistent solution. Each of the sub-teams will need a leader and team members need to understand their individual roles.
When you structure the team consider the importance of generating collaboration, knowledge sharing and skills transfer. In the example below, the team would have a mix of people so that all the necessary skills, knowledge and understanding are collectively within that team, subject to any further specialised support that is needed.
The team development is equally important. This is the process of improving competencies, team member interaction and the overall team environment to enhance project performance.
The team needs to be organized in order to maximize the team effectiveness. The project manager will foster good work relationships and motivate team members to complete quality work on time.
It’s good to be aware of the team development model, called the Tuckman ladder, which includes five stages of development that teams may go through:
- Forming: team meets and learns about the project and their formal roles and responsibilities
- Storming: team begins to address project work, technical decisions and need to be collaborative and open to different ideas; else the environment become counterproductive
- Norming: team members begin to work together and learn to trust each other
- Performing: team is a well-organised unit who work through issues smoothly
- Adjourning: team completes the work and moves on from the project
Barriers to effective team development
Many barriers can be in the way of effective team development. For example, if team members have disjointed priorities, it may cause conflict within the team. Communication gaps originate if a project team doesn’t stay aligned, or there could be misunderstandings. Lastly, a team member may show a lack of commitment to a project especially if the person is working on several projects at the same time or is over-allocated in terms of project and operational responsibilities.
You will find that each project team’s dynamics are different. As long as you lead the team to a place of synergy where the combined effect is more than the individual contributions.
For more on Virtual Teams, read the article series:
Virtual Teams Communication challenges:
Please subscribe to Virtual Project Consulting not to miss future articles!