Tag Archive: project teams

Best Practices in Project Teamwork

December 19th, 2016
project teamwork

Since projects lift bottom-line business results, companies depend on these initiatives for growth and profits. Cultivating a strong project team and handing them a clear goal are keys to success.

In working with clients ranging from small businesses to large, complex, global organizations across multiple industries, I’ve yet to run across a client that doesn’t rely heavily on project results to support customers, grow the business and increase profitability. What else could be more important to business success?

Since projects cannot succeed with a sole participant, project teams are essential to success. Therefore, discovering the best ways for project teams to work together will lead to results. After leading and participating in hundreds of major projects and many smaller projects over the last 25 years, I’ve compiled a short list of best practices for project teamwork.

1. Clarity of Goals

As with almost every team, the team will be far more successful if the individual teammates understand the goals. Start with the goal of the project. Why are we doing this? What does it accomplish? What are the expected results of the project? Answering these questions will provide clarity of the overarching goals.

Next, go over the critical path milestone. What is the goal of each milestone? Who needs to do what to make them happen? Following this exercise provides clarity of the project plan and project objectives. All team members are on the same page up front.

2. Resolve Goal Conflicts

Of course, gaining clarity on the goals and critical path alone won’t foster teamwork. The next step is to resolve goal conflicts. I’ve found that as teams go through this process, 80% of the time, some sort of conflict will arise. The main conflicts fall into two categories – resource availability and department conflicts.

In today’s Amazon-impacted world, speed is of the essence. Equally troubling, since the recession, organizations are running lean and so time is limited. Thus, conflicts related to resources are commonplace. For example, let’s assume there are 16 hours remaining this week, and one team member has to complete a project task on the critical path that would require 8 hours of time by the end of the week in order to keep the project on-track. Alone, this is not a problem. However, his/her line manager also has a priority task that requires 16 hours of time that must be complete by the end of the week. An inherent conflict exists. The sooner this problem is uncovered, the sooner it can be resolved.

Equally commonplace are inherent conflicts between departments. For example, if a project task requires Purchasing to get volume discounts while a different task requires Planning to reduce inventory which would require more frequent deliveries, even though both team members are available to complete their tasks, there is a conflict between the two. Again, the sooner this is uncovered, the sooner it can be resolved.

3. Reward Project Goals; Not Individual Goals

One of the most common issues that arise is when the individual is rewarded for doing what benefits them instead of the project team. Similar to aligning goals, rewards and recognition need to follow the team. If each person does their part to contribute to getting a milestone accomplished, the entire team should celebrate success. If one person can be rewarded for achieving an individual goal while the team doesn’t meet its goal, a miss-match will occur.

4. Metrics

I’ve found that one of the most important ways to align teams is to have a common set of metrics. What is measured will be achieved. Thus, if the team has a clear set of metrics, everyone will be tracking the same items. Thus, as conflicts arise, the metrics will provide initial direction. Also, the metrics focus teams on what is most important. In my experience, the simple act of selecting and tracking a few metrics can create significant teamwork. The team unites behind improving the metrics.

5. Celebrate Successes

Lastly, celebrating success is an important way to tie it all together. Teams unite when the individuals get to know one another. Celebrating success allows the team to connect in a different way and it creates momentum. Thus, celebrating small wins along the way (such as the achievement of critical path milestones) can go a long way to enhancing teamwork.

Teams with stronger levels of teamwork surpass the results of those with high individual contributors that do not work as effectively together. In my experience, even if the high individual contributors are the best of the best as compared to medium contributors that work well as a team, the team of medium contributors will win that race. Appreciate the value of teams and consider implementing a few of these strategies to accelerate success. Bottom line results will follow.

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to be the Strongest Link in your organization:

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The Elements of Project Success: A Case Study

July 21st, 2016
project success

The common factors leading to a project’s success include leadership, support, and management. Clear your team’s path with sufficient attention to these areas for the results you want.

After leading hundreds of projects and participating with hundreds more, I’ve looked for what created project success.

In this case study of project success, we asked questions: What was in common among the projects? Did the project teams do something in particular? Were they a certain type of project? Did the project sponsor do something unique? Did it matter if they crossed departments, organizations or parts of the world? Certainly, there had to be common traits that seemed to lead to project success – what were they?

The most common factors determining success – achieving project results on time, on budget and on target – include the following:

  • Project leader: Every truly successful project had a project leader who was effective. Not all were spectacular, but each one was effective in leading the project team. The project leader was respected by the team. In order to be respected, the project leader included the project team in the process, worked issues as they arose, was willing to push back as required, and was an effective leader overall.
  • Executive sponsor support: Not every project had a sponsor; actually most didn’t have a specific executive sponsor; however, they all had someone in some sort of position of authority who supported the project at critical junctures. This could be at the start – in essence, the project supporter got the ball rolling for the project. Or, it could have been related to a roadblock – the project supporter helped the team work through the roadblock. Or, it could be that the project supporter was a cheerleader for the project team or with the executive team to keep the momentum flowing.
  • Celebrate successes: A seemingly fluffy topic that was in common with the project successes was the celebration of success for wins along the way. Certainly, quick wins get the project off to a solid start and creates momentum. Most successful projects focused on creating quick wins – small is fine so long as it can create momentum. For example, my firm just introduced a proprietary process for driving supply chain performance called TST – achieving the right combination of torque, speed, and traction to drive performance. The torque component is vital. If you have speed and traction without torque, you have a slow start. As good as the team might be, if they get out of the blocks slow, it is a long, slow road to get to the finish line.
  • Critical path timeline: Although not all successful projects had a project timeline, every successful project had some sort of critical path timeline. In essence, the team understood what tasks were most critical, what sequence to complete these tasks and what handoffs were required along the way. When thinking about my TST process, this is the traction component. Steering towards the finish line is essential. Have you ever seen someone seemingly achieving victories and move quickly, just to find out they took the wrong turn? This certainly arises with project failures.

Most project teams that experienced failure got sidetracked in lengthy project tasks – some even followed up profusely on these tasks; however, the tasks were not necessarily those on the critical path timeline. In essence, they took several wrong turns, even though they were working hard and efficiently tracking task progress. From the technical point-of-view, I’ve found this to be the 80/20 of success! Put your follow-up and communication efforts here.

  • Speed: Certainly the third component of my TST process is a key to success with projects – and, I find it is one of the most common elements of success specifically in today’s new Amazon-impacted world. Unfortunately, if you get side-tracked with too much analysis, too much debate, and discussion on team objectives, too many conflicts over resources and the like, you slow down progress. Yet in today’s world, customers expect immediate service, 24/7 accessibility and quick access to the required information. If you are missing speed, you will be passed up by your competition driving in the fast lane!
  • Communication: This almost goes without saying as communication, communication, communication is as critical as “location, location, location” in real estate. Not only does the project team need to know why they are focusing on the project, who owns which task, with whom they should interact and collaborate in order to be successful, and to whom they should hand-off as the next critical path task, but they need to communicate with all related parties frequently. These should include the project sponsor, managers who need to support their efforts with resources and in communications, etc.

I’ve found these types of trends to be a strong indicator for success. Thus, make a deliberate effort to create your next project with these success traits, and I have no doubt you’ll be delighted with your project outcomes. Give it a shot and report back with your struggles and successes. Building on strengths and success is the best way to breed success.

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