Over the course of a long project, a team sometimes drifts off course and loses momentum. The project manager needs to swing into action to realign the project team with the project objectives and step on the pedal.
What options are there for the project team?
There are both formal and informal solutions.
- The project manager can institute new rituals to re-energize a project team.
- On projects that are experiencing problems, the PM can stop work and take the team out to relieve frustrations.
- On another project, a project manager showed her project team the movie The Shawshank Redemption to instill hope and commitment.
- Have the project sponsor give a pep talk to the project team.
- A friendly challenge can reinvigorate a project team.
The project manager may see the need for a team-building session aimed at improving the work processes.
- This meeting is appropriate if the PM thinks that the project team development is nearing a transition point.
- The goal is to improve the project team’s effectiveness through better understanding of project processes and demands.
- The project project team evaluates its performance, analyzes the way they do things things, and tries to create strategies to improve.
An external consultant can be hired, or an internal specialist is brought in to facilitate the workshop.
- This process can bring an objective perspective, allows the project manager to take part in the workshop, and provides a specialist in group dynamics.
- Furthermore, if information is collected, team members can be more open to an outsider.
Problems that might appear
One problem with using consultants is that too often project managers resort to this as way of dealing with a problem, that they have been unable or unwilling to admit.
- The consultant’s order can very easily be “fix my team for me.” What managers fail to understand is that one of the keys to fixing the project team is improving the relationship between them and the project team.
- For such sessions to be effective, project managers have to agree to have their role being scrutinized.
- They need to be ready to change their own behavior and habits based on the comments from the project team.
How would a consultant do it
Consultants can use a wide variety of team-building techniques to improve team performance. Here is an example of one of the more common approaches a consultant can employ to rejuvenate a project team.
- Gather information and make a preliminary analysis of team performance. He may use individual interviews or a group forum, ask general questions about the project team performance. Example: what obstacles are getting in the way of the team?
- Summarize the information in themes.
- When everyone has understood the themes, the group ranks them on: importance and how likely is that the team can exert ownership over them.
- This last part is important. Ownership refers to whether the team has the power to influence sudden changes in plans.
- If the project team becomes preoccupied with issues outside its control zone, the meeting can very quickly turn into a gripe session.
- Therefore, the most critical issues, that they can have a direct impact over, become the focus of the agenda.
- During the course of the workshop, a lot of interpersonal and group information will be created, and that will be examined as well.
- Thus, making the group work on two sets of items: the group agenda and on the items that are created from the interaction of the members.
- Here the expertise of on external consultant becomes critical. Identifying interaction patterns and their implications.
- As problems are discussed, alternatives for action are being developed.
- The team-building workshop concludes with: specific action steps created to remedy problems, and set target dates for who will do what, and when.
- These action steps can be reviewed at future project status meetings or at a follow-up session.
It is very common to link team-building activities with outdoor activities. The outdoor experience—whatever it may be— places team members in a variety of challenging situations that can be mastered through teamwork, not individual effort. By working together to overcome obstacles,team members should experience increased self-confidence, more respect for one another’s capabilities, and a greater commitment to teamwork.
No empirical data is available to support such endeavors other than the overall support of the participants. These activities are very likely to provide a common experience that should accelerate the development on the project team’s social skills. Such an investment of money and time proves the importance of teamwork and is considered by some a perk for being on the project team.
Unfortunately unless the lessons from these experiences can be transferred to actual project work, their significance is likely to diminish.
Image courtesy of Freepik.