Develop Project Team Tools & technique 1

May 30, 2010
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The tools and techniques that you need to bring into effect include inter personal skills to be developed in team members, training for individuals, team building activities that provides the cohesion between team members, ground rules, co-location and rewards as well as recognitions. All of these go toward creating a high performance team and then keeping it together and nurturing it along through the project lifetime. In this part 1 of the discussions, we discuss here the interpersonal skills, training and team building activities. Rest will be discussed in part 2.
Stephen Covey in his Seven habits of highly effective people talks about a stage of interdependence which one achieves only when personal independence is achieved. It is not a contradiction that independent people cannot be dependent on others. Actually being independent, when one has conquered ones own shortcomings, is when someone can be effectively interdependent. Inter-personal skills are what makes the interdependence effective. Not only do you need to make sure these skills are available with the individual member4s but also that as project leaders you have to be proficient in these so called soft skills. What they let you achieve are increase in cooperation between members, reduce problems, understand their emotional drives, ability to anticipate their actions and follow ups on their issues.
For quality work, you can afford to have any less, people deployed have to have the right skills. You have to watch out and make sure the right training is provided to the project staff so that they can carry out the work to the right level of quality. Formal or informal training that enhances the competencies of the team members are what is required to be provided unless you want to risk the project outcome. There is a whole range of delivering this training to the members. Some of them could be a little nebulous like mentoring and personal coaching while the other methods are quite well defined. These include classroom based instructor led training, self paced computer based or on-line training, on the job training by a partner and so on. Some of these would be scheduled as per the human resources plan and others would evolve out of observation, conversation and performance appraisal exercises.
Team building activities are activities taken up by the new team members to sort of break the ice and engage in activities that need participation of all the members for joint success. There are a whole range of such exercises promoted by various specialist consultants. Adventure activities, that has some element of risk yet not life threateningly so are good vehicles for getting a team energized into the working as a team mode quickly.
Project leadership need to have a good grasp of the group dynamics that helps getting a high performing team together. According to a theory that is widely accepted this formation process goes through four crucial and identifiable stages. These are forming, storming, norming and then performing. At the end of the activities there is that final stage of adjourning. Forming stage is the phase when team members meet and formal roles and responsibilities are explained. Members tend to be independent and not so open at this stage.
Storming is the phase as with any new social group where people find their places on the totem pole of the tribe. During this phase the members start addressing project work, technical issues and project management. Project leadership needs to watch this phase closely and even ease the process. If members are not open to ideas and differing views, not collaborative for too long then the team can destruct itself.
Norming is the phase when the storm has settled and people have fallen into the power slots of the tribe that is the project team. The team begins to start to trust each other, work together and adjust work habits and behavior that supports the team. Performing is when the team has not only formed well but has gelled to the extent that it works as a well oiled machinery and a single unit. They are interdependent and work through issues quickly and efficiently.
When all the activities are completed the team adjourns.

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