Guideline Eleven | Teams

11. Continually develop and manage the core project team(s).

The effectiveness of the main project team(s) is often a critical success factor for projects.  In the most favourable circumstances, a team can be selected carefully with the specific needs of the project in mind. The aim should be to have team members with the right mix of capabilities, disposition (e.g. style of operating, professionalism) and capacity (essentially, time in their schedules to do the work). Unfortunately, in many situations this is not possible. People in project teams are sometimes volunteers who are already very busy with other work, seconded with little consultation or in the team for reasons unlikely to promote high levels of commitment and energy.
While the initial characteristics of project teams vary considerably, Project Leaders and Managers can have a considerable influence on their effectiveness over time. There are many good resources on team management and building. Here we limit our advice to five suggestions, based mainly on our professional project work and leadership experiences.

1) Do everything possible to influence the membership of the project team (or teams). Aim to have people with the needed capabilities and expertise, disposition and capacity to do the work of the project. Use assigned authority and/or negotiation with senior leadership to influence team constitution.

2) Invest time in team induction. Create opportunities for members to: converse with and get to know each other; develop clear shared understanding of project goals and their value; discuss and agree explicit values for how the team and individuals need to work (mutual respect and dependence; accountability for tasks); and model expected good practices (e.g. active listening; timeliness; tolerance of differences).

3) Work on motivating and recognizing team members.  Assign special responsibilities stressing their importance, use feedback constructively, recognize different talents and types of contributions, celebrate achievements, and identify incentives or good reasons for doing things well (e.g. learning; profile raising).

4) Organize, run and record the outcomes of effective meetings. Plan meetings well and run them using a clear and efficient process that makes sense to, and is satisfying for, team members. Focus on important matters including key decisions, critical actions, assigned responsibilities and timelines. Ensure people get time to contribute, recognize and record successes and good problem solving, and actively and constructively manage behaviours that are inconsistent with agreed values

5) Develop a sense of collective worth, opportunity and authority (for the team). Seek to obtain an appropriate level of formally assigned authority or backing (with responsibility) to do the “important work” of the project. The support of university senior leadership (e.g. the VC; DVC; Deans; Academic Board), a higher-level Project Reference Group, or in some cases an external body (e.g. a professional association) can be valuable for this purpose. Whether or not any kind of assigned authority or support can be obtained, project leadership can enhance perceptions of team worth by making clear the importance of the project’s values and work, and any associated opportunities and benefits for team members.