Accelerating Team Development

MLTBA discussion forum in an online management, leadership, and team building course asks:

Knowing that teams need to go through each stage from forming to performing, how do you accelerate the process? Consider what role personal, team, and organizational values and vision play in team development and how incentives and rewards affect the process.

It is extremely helpful when executives articulate organizational values, in areas such as integrity, dealing with competitors, and customer satisfaction.  Project managers should inculcate these values, as well as more personal and team values, into their project environments.  I still find, however, that “integrity crimes” work their way into many operating conditions, when managers do not do what they say they will do.  These actions have the effect of deflating morale—people feel violated and become cynical—as the Who’s song says, “I won’t get fooled again.”

I just witnessed this effect on sponsoring my recent home build project.  Our builder—the project manager—made a number of promises early in the project, such as not up-charging subcontractor bids and not having to pay for cabinet repairs.  When conflict arose over these issues, he back pedaled on these promises, became defensive, and lost our trust and respect.

Conflicts are inevitable on any project.  If they are handled with integrity and transparency, they usually may be resolved, and team development is enhanced.  If not, projects do not close well; people become weary of wanting to work together again.

Project managers are wise, when initiating projects, to specify in a project charter or business plan how the project supports organizational values. Also set expectations for team behaviors. During project start-up activities, verify that personal values are in alignment with team and organizational values. Put time on the agenda to share and discuss these topics. This will be time well spent to develop alignment and ward off possible conflicts.

Develop a shared vision about a desired future state when the project is completed. Use vivid language and a compelling description, unique to the project. Satisfy the 4 C’s:  clear, convincing, compelling, and concise. Do this as a team exercise to elicit enthusiasm among stakeholders about the project. I prod students in a course on creating the project management office to develop vision statements for what will be happening in an organization when a PMO is implemented.  Here is what Karen and I put together as one response:

All stakeholders, including executive leadership, recognize the value of project management procedures and guidelines that enables our company to maintain and exceed profitability. This happens because a Project Management Initiative collectively defines, creates, implements, and manages process improvements; it continually guides effective, clear, and concise communication throughout the organization.

Measuring the success of a vision involves incentives and rewards. An incentive is announced in advance that something will be offered as a reward if a goal is met. Rewards are presented after an achievement is met. Rewards may either be known in advance or may come as a delightful surprise.

The problem with incentives is, if conditions such as economic downturns occur that make it no longer feasible to fund a reward or if circumstances beyond a team’s control make it unable to meet the goal, people may be demotivated if the promised incentive is not fulfilled.

Student Lisa offered this response:

Hello Randy,

Thank you for sharing your words of advice and experience. As I read I made mental notes, and then decided to keep a copy to reflect back on. One area you address, incentives, I myself experienced an incentive not being awarded due to change in management, and this did in fact cause disappointment and conflict with the team. Even with that experience I did not feel that incentives were a bad thing, I just felt that this situation fell into the category we call change and we employees needed to adjust. With that said, I will take your words into consideration when given an opportunity to implement an incentive vs. a reward. Thank you for your feedback.

My suggestion is to focus on rewards, make them appropriate to the people and the context, and be weary of incentives.

One key element that continually gets reinforced for me about what accelerates team development from forming to performing is to listen to each other. When observing team members in particularly difficult discussions, many people, especially the aggressive types, tend to override others. The quiet types, who may be deep thinkers and still in contemplation, may not have the opportunity to speak up. Mistakes are made before people realize they should take more time for discussions, hear or draw everybody out, and only proceed when consensus is reached.

Randy Englund

Englund Project Management Consultancy,

Co-author, The Complete Project Manager


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