Starting a new project can be a very interesting experience, and yet it can also be a terrifying experience. Interesting or horrifying depends greatly on your level of experience. The most interesting and challenging part is actually putting the team together. There are many aspects to consider such as: What tasks need to be completed; what level of expertise will be needed; what amount of time will be required to complete each task; and if the task requires only a certain expertise for a short time, is that expertise available when you need them?
Other questions that need to be considered involve governing the project. The processes that will need to be established will need to be considered by both the team and by management. Processes that involve communicating, conflict management, risk management; all need to be considered and planned.
This paper will discuss the processes and elements needed to manage a team in a project. It will discuss the various attributes of good team process, the key elements required to running a successful team, the core processes of a high performing team, and how to manage the inevitable conflict that arise in any project team.
What Is Process
Processes are the tools and procedures used to complete projects successfully. In team space, the project team usually defines processes that fit the needs of the specific project. These can be temporary or for the life of the project.
Some processes are determined by the company. These types of processes are considered to be permanent processes and all projects have to abide by them. An example could be financial reporting procedures, timekeeping, status reports, or procurement policies as processes the company decides, not the project.
The Five Key Attributes of Good Team Process
Processes are what help to keep a project running smoothly. Without processes, projects will go off in several different directions at once and control is lost. To effectively develop and manage processes the team needs to follow five key attributes; depersonalize issues or topics; increase team transparency; make discussions objective, not emotional; make the environment participatory and inclusive by giving each team member equal weight and power in decision making(Wong, 2007).
Using these five key attributes ensures effective smooth running of the project. Rewarding contribution from team members shows them that it is safe to speak up. When the team speaks up ideas begin to flow and the team discovers a better way in which to solve an issue. Shutting team members down only contributes to an unsuccessful project. Our society has a tendency to shut members of the society down; minorities or women are told by men that their thoughts are not important. We could very well be telling a potential discoverer of the cure to cancer to shut up. The same thing can happen when the process of the project allows for some members to dominate the conversation leaving others out of the decision making process. Allowing for inclusiveness encourages participation giving each team member power to help make decisions.
The key is the team decides on the processes it will use to manage itself. And these processes need to be decided early in the project (Wong, 2007). Some teams try to develop processes on the fly which means the team will be constantly trying to determine how issues or problems will be handled as they occur. Having a predetermined process in place that determines how a process not anticipated needs to be handled is just smart thinking on the part of the team. It allows for the transparency in decision making to grow in strength.
Core Processes of High Performing Teams
There are six core main areas in which the team requires effective processes. These areas really involve the main day-to-day activities of running a successful project. They include team meetings, roles and responsibilities, communications, decision making, measuring performance, and feedback (Wong, 2007).
The team needs to set regularly scheduled status meetings with the team as a whole, with upper management and with the sponsors of the project. The team, depending on the project schedule should meet at least weekly to review the status of the project, discuss what was done and what is planned, and to determine a course of action for any issues or blockers (PMBOK, 2013).
Roles and responsibilities, such as team leaders and facilitators, need to be defined and assigned early on in the project as they will help facilitate decision making and feedback. This is important because it will help to facilitate assigning leads on issues when they crop up. It also helps the team and management determine who they should go to if the situation arises as a crisis and decisions need to be made quickly making the luxury of meeting to discuss impossible.
A communication plan needs to be established right from the start of any project. The communication plan determines how and what gets communicated and to whom. It determines who is responsible for what gets communicated and how that communication gets delivered (PMBOK, 2013).
An example is the status report. There are many different levels in any given project that require a status report. These levels include the project team, upper management, or the sponsors of the project. Each require different information and want it presented in different ways. The overall team needs to determine what information is needed for these status reports, such as performance measurements and feedback, how it will be gathered, how it will be delivered, and how feedback will be returned. These reports need to provide the information needed to manage the project and not everyone needs the same information or all of the information. Most importantly, the team should decide who will be responsible for managing these reports.
Content tells the team what it is that is being asked of them. It explains why this project is being put together, what the objective is, what assumptions are being made, and how it affects the strategy of the company.
Vision is a major part of content as it tells the team what it is we’re all aiming for. Vision shows what is possible by completing this project. Vision can be inspiring and shared by everyone on the team. Vision can be a motivator that provides direction moving the team forward because it understands the opportunities and the strategies presented.
To accomplish the goals of the project the team needs to understand the content in order to create the processes that will help deliver that vision. Without the content the team has no idea what is expected or being asked of them.
Conflict in project management is very much like conflict in a friendship: it’s going to happen. The key is in the processes used to resolve the conflict. The likelihood that conflict occurs, especially in information systems development projects, is extremely high because the individuals involved are from different backgrounds and cultures working together in the project. Conflicts can arise due to differences in values, needs, perceptions, and personalities. Appropriate skills in dealing with conflict can help project managers to handle conflicts effectively and lead to a successful conclusion of the project (Ohlendorf, 2001).
Hidden agendas are generally caused when members of the team do not share information. It may be information a team member feels they cannot entrust to the rest of the team, or they’re new to the team and they don’t feel comfortable sharing it with others just yet. The solution to hidden agendas is open and honest communications. As a team, together you decide how the team will communicate in an open and honest way. Building open and honest communications builds a trusting environment for the team and leads to successful projects (Herzog, 2001).
Project Hierarchical Flowchart
Figure 1.1, the Project Hierarchical Flowchart, shows the interaction between the different groups so that the members of the project team can tell who reports to whom in the hierarchy. The object of the project flowchart is to provide a pictorial representation of the project authority. It should show the team members who have the final authority of approval for many of the project requirements while also showing who has responsibility for each of the project sections.
Figure 1.1. Project Hierarchical Flowchart
The secret to handling conflict and building a successful team is open and honest communication. By setting up the processes that allows for open and honest communication you develop a more cohesive team that works together to resolve issues and problems when they arise. Conflict can be a good thing when it is used to arrive at solutions (Wong, 2007). Conflict in project management is inevitable but when properly managed it can lead to favorable conditions. However, conflict can be very damaging to a project when not well managed. For Project Managers the challenge is to try to find what the right amount of conflict in a project is. Project Managers can establish an atmosphere in which team work is encouraged and the project goals are reached by understanding the intricacies of conflict, and learning the distinctions of the different approaches to conflict resolution.
Herzog, V. (2001). Trust building on corporate collaborative project teams. Project Management Journal, 32(1).
Ohlendorf, A. (2001). Conflict resolution in project management. Information Systems Analysis.
Project Management Institute. (2013). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide), fifth edition. Newtown Square, PA: Author.
Wong, Z. (2007). Human factors in project management: Concepts, tools, and techniques for inspiring teamwork and motivation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.