Forming the team

March 16, 2010

Getting a team, getting them to be tuned up for the project and then keep them tuned through the project life cycle is one the most important professional responsibility of a manager assigned to any project. The project manager usually gets assigned to the project at very initial stages, thus he/she would have contributed to the HR plan that defines the roles and responsibilities of the required project staff as well as their skill sets. The exercise at this is to define the skills required so closely as to avoid any additional effort in training the personnel.

Project Manager and how can he Contribute?

The team forming process starts right after the project staff has been identified, recruitments (as required) have been gone through and people are physically in place. As the text books would tell you this is the stage that the first phase of the four step process of team forming starts. No team is just the collection of individuals. To start working together the first phase is the storming. This is the phase where personalities clash, communications bounce around, conflicts are at a peak and is really, truly a story phase. This end only when the relationships settle down into working processes. Personalities become known to each other and necessary adjustments are done by the parties involved. As the storm rages on the best a project manager can do is be the ultimate facilitator. He needs to smoothen the storming so that working relationships get set up easily and quickly. Umpiring in conflicts can become a routine task at this stage. However, what he needs to be absolutely ensure is that he is objective. Just be4ing objective may not be enough he needs to be seen to be objective. This can be a difficult task as a lot of very different personalities are coming together and their standards of objectivity could well be very different.

To be objective the manager needs to be able to really “listen”. A project manager needs this one quality for many other areas of project management, but is absolutely crucial here at the team forming stage. He/she needs a strong supply of empathy to go with the listening skills too. Being very level headed, not being swayed by emotions, but the goals of his project are other helpful qualities to the game. Once the totem pole has been settled with the worst part of the storm is over. While the manager’s responsibilities will need to be paying full attention to the events surrounding the team, the later stages of forming and norming is kind of evolutionary. They fall into place with the manager easing things along.

The last stage of a high performing team is “performing”. Though this is not tempestuous and does not need constant caution and attention human emotions primarily, it needs constant attention from the manager though. Reaching a high performance stage with the team and then maintaining it is absolutely crucial to the success of the project. This too takes a large dose of facilitating. One of the primary things the manager needs to undertake at this stage is to make sure whatever the team needs are available in time.

High performing personnel expect to be compensated well. But the need for recognition is very strong with such individuals. Maintaining high performance requires that the performance appraisals that are undertaken during the project duration help fulfill that need. The monetary needs will have to be met too. These recognitions will have to be very objective so that the tem tribe also perceives these recognitions to be deserving of the individuals. Communication skills, being perceived as impartial, level headed takes the manager a long way in achieving these goals.

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