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Monday, July 4, 2011

Chapter 65:Developing the Project Team

You have now acquired your project team. But, as mentioned time and again, you rarely get all best fits for your project. In almost all cases, you try to make the most of what you get. This means, you need to groom or mould the team that you got to the team that you know will make the project a success. This is done by Developing the Project Team.

Developing the Project Team

Your project team can consist of members from different departments and disciplines, regular employees and contractors, and experts from different disciplines. Some of these individuals might not have much appreciation for others’ disciplines. You have a challenge to develop this diverse group into a cohesive and efficient team that will perform the project on time, within budget, and with quality. The single goal of team development is to maximize project performance. This is accomplished by doing the following:
• Improve the competencies of team members
• Improve the interaction among team members
• Improve the overall team environment

This will help you develop a cohesive and competent team to meet the project objectives effectively.
As the Project Manager, you are ultimately responsible for the project success or downfall. And, the team performance has a direct impact on how successful your project is. So, make sure that you spend sufficient time, effort and resources to develop your team properly. That being said, teamwork and team spirit are critical factors for the project success. It’s the responsibility of the project manager to create an environment that supports teamwork and team spirit.

You develop the team using the Develop Project Team process. The team development starts with a list of team members and the staff assignments made during the Acquire Project Team process. The resource availability list provides information about when the team members are available for team development activities. The following items of the staff management plan can be useful for team development:
• Training strategies
• Plans for developing the project team
• Recognition and rewards systems

The picture below explains the whole process of Developing your team

As you can see, the inputs to this process are all straightforward and hence we will jump straight into the tools & techniques part.

Tools & Techniques used in Developing the Project Team

Ground rules - A very important management technique is to establish clear expectations at the very beginning of a project. The expectations can be set up by establishing a set of ground rules. Early commitment to these guidelines will increase cooperation and productivity by decreasing misunderstandings. Once the rules are clearly established, all team members are responsible for enforcing & following them.
Training - The goal of training is to improve the competencies of the project team members, which in turn helps in meeting the project objectives. Training might be aimed at individual members or at the team as a whole, depending upon the needs. The training might be scheduled in the staff management plan, or it might result from observations, conversations, and project performance appraisals as the project progresses. Following are examples of some training methods:
• Coaching
• Mentoring
• On-the-job training of a team member by another team member
• Online training
• Instructor-led classroom training

Training is one of the most effective means of developing the team. Most large organizations that claim to be working at CMMI Level 5 have robust training plans and frameworks for their employees and every individual must spend a pre-defined amount of time in training & improving their skillset every year in order to be eligible for the highest performance bands during appraisal.

Interpersonal and general management skills - General management skills, especially inter-personal skills, are necessary to develop an effective team. You and the project management team can minimize problems and maximize cooperation by understanding the sentiments of team members, anticipating their actions, acknowledging their concerns, and following up on the issues. To accomplish this, the following interpersonal management skills are necessary:
Effective communication - This is needed to facilitate the smooth flow of necessary information among the team members.
Ability to influence the organization - This is needed to get things done.
Leadership - This is needed to develop a vision and strategy and to motivate people to achieve that vision. During a time of possible uncertainty, such as changes in upper management, you should clarify the situation and help the team stay focused on the project.
Motivation - This is needed for energizing team members to achieve high levels of performance and to overcome barriers to change. During times when the team is in a low morale mode (Usually just after a salary revision cycle), you should be able to lift the team morale and thereby contribute to team development.
Negotiation and conflict management - This is needed to work with team members to resolve their conflicts and facilitate negotiations when necessary in resolving conflicts or in task assignments. Depending on the nature of the conflict, you can take it as a team development opportunity. Effective resolution of a conflict contributes to team building.
Problem solving - This ability is needed to define, analyze, and solve problems.

Motivating the team is extremely important. During troubled times (like the financial crisis that just passed us) employees may be low in morale due to bad pay hikes or job cuts. It is during such times, that a project manager is most important to motivate his/her team. You cannot take the escapism route that says “Sorry guys, it’s the management decision to give such bad hikes, I can’t help it”. Though you are one of the people who are low on morale due to bad hikes (of course), you must not let that show in your work or affect your team. It is your responsibility to keep the team motivated and working at their peak performance levels.

Team-building activities - Team-building activities can range from indirect team-building activities, such as participating in constructing the WBS, to direct team-building activities, such as social gatherings where the team members can get to know each other and start feeling comfortable with each other. While planning such activities, you should keep in mind that team members might have different interests and different levels of tolerance for games and different icebreakers.

The project kickoff meeting is another indirect method to start team development. This can be used as a formal way to introduce team members and other stakeholders and spell out the project goals for everyone at the same time. An ideal kickoff meeting is a combination of serious business and fun. The goal is to align the team with the project goals and to help team members feel comfortable with each other.

In planning the kickoff meeting, you can assume that team members have the following questions in their heads that need to be answered before the end of the meeting:
• Why am I here?
• Who are you and what are your expectations of me?
• What is this team going to do?
• How is the team going to do its work?
• How do I fit into all this?

Consider the following steps to make your kickoff meeting successful:
• Agenda - Putting the meeting agenda in the hands of the team members always helps to run the meeting more smoothly and effectively and keep it on the track.
Welcome - Take immediate charge of the meeting by introducing yourself and welcoming the participants. Quickly walk through the agenda and set the stage for the rest of the meeting.
Project overview - Define the project, its goals, and its deliverables. Introduce the project team members and briefly describe their roles. The goal is to provide a big picture and to help individual team members figure out how they fit into the big picture.
Expectations - Many project team members might not already know you and your management style. You should take this opportunity to set expectations about how the team will function. For example, state that you expect all team members to attend weekly status meetings. Remind the team to focus on the project goal, to do their part, and to look out for one another in a team spirit.
Guest speakers - Depending upon the size and the visibility of the project, you might also invite relevant guest speakers, such as the project sponsor, the customer, or an executive stakeholder. Before the meeting, spend some time communicating with the guest speaker about the message to deliver.
Closure - Ask for feedback and hold a question-and-answer session before closing the meeting.

Remember that the main purpose of the kickoff meeting is to bring every team member onto the same page regarding the big picture of the project. Don’t get bogged down discussing every item in detail.

Leading by example and setting the right expectations are the best way to handle a team. When you take over as the project manager, it is a good idea to have one-on-one meetings with all team members and understand what his/her expectation is from the project and most importantly from you. You can also take this opportunity to outline what you expect from them and what they might get in return if they perform at their best. This always worked for me. When you tell someone in your team that if he/she accomplishes some task at a certain quality, they shall get a certain reward, they often meet the goals. This serves two purposes – your boss is happy because your team got the job done, your team is happy because they are going to get something in return. All this hinges on the fact that, you were able to keep up the promise. Don't promise something that you cannot give. Keep the expectations realistic and you will always be able to motivate your team.

You should know that team development is not an instant process. Generally speaking, when you form a team, according to the Tuckman model, it goes through five stages of development. The picture below illustrates the same:

Forming - This is the orientation stage, with high dependence on the leader (YOU) for guidance and direction. Individual roles and responsibilities are unclear, and there is little agreement on the team goals other than those received from the leader. Processes are often ignored, and team members test the tolerance of the system and the leader. It’s time to establish ground rules and clear expectations. The leader directs in this stage.
Storming - This stage represents the struggle for control and power as team member’s work to establish themselves relative to other team members. The clarity of team goals increases, but some uncertainties persist. Compromises might be required to make progress. Coaching and training can play effective roles during this stage.
Norming - This is the routine stage during which consensus and agreement about team goals generally prevails among team members. Roles and responsibilities are clear and accepted by team members. Major decisions are made by group agreements, and smaller decisions can be delegated to appropriate team members. During this stage, the leader facilitates.
Performing - This is the productivity stage in which the team knows what it’s doing and why. The team is functioning in a cohesive unit and working toward the common goal in a more autonomous fashion. Disagreements might arise, but they are resolved within the team in a constructive way. During this stage, the leader delegates and oversees.
Adjourning - This is the closure stage. When the mission for which the team was formed is accomplished (or cancelled), the team is adjourned to free the team members to move on to other things.

Being aware of these stages of team development will help you to better understand the behaviors of team members and thereby develop your team more effectively.

Co-location - This technique keeps all (or most) of the project team members in the same physical location to improve communication and to create a sense of community among team members. In this age of virtual teams, this is not an increasingly popular technique, but when most of the team members are in the same location; this technique is a default choice. It can include a war room, which is a meeting room used for regular face-to-face meetings. Also, when the project is being executed by a virtual team, the co-location technique can be used to put together some team members at crucial times of the project.

Recognition and rewards - Generally speaking, people feel motivated if they feel that their contributions and efforts are recognized and valued. Rewards are effective methods to express recognition. The recognition and rewards strategy set up during the human resource planning process can be used to develop the project team. Remember the following rules in setting up a fair reward system:
• Only desirable behavior should be rewarded.
• Any member should be able to win the reward.
• Win-lose rewards, such as team member of the month, can hurt the team cohesiveness.
• The cultural diversity of the team should be considered and respected.
The effects of team development efforts are measured by the team performance assessment, the major output of the Develop Project Team process, which includes the following indicators:
• Improvement in individual skills that enables a team member to perform project activities more efficiently.
• Improvement in team skills that help the team to improve overall performance and work more effectively as a group.
• Increased team spirit or cohesiveness: Team members interact in a constructive way and help each other to meet the project objectives.
• Reduced staff turnover rate.

While developing your team, you may need to modify some enterprise environmental factors, such as training records and skill assessment.

In addition to team development, the project team needs to be managed throughout the project.

Prev: Acquiring a Project Team

Next: Managing the Project Team

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