4.2 Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of a project team
Those involved in a project may have skills that fulfil more than one aspect of the project agenda. This is likely to be particularly important in small-scale projects, where management of the content, process and control agendas are just as important to the project's success, but where fewer people are involved.
Activity 3: Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of a project team
Consider a project team you have worked on or with. This could be a team at work or a team out of work, for example, one which organised an event at a local school or church.
Note down the answers to the following questions.
Make a list of the skills and expertise of the team members.
Compare it with the ideal project team skills described above.
Which roles and expertise were well represented and which were missing?
How did this affect the way in which the team worked?
You may have found that your team had a surplus of content skills and not sufficient process and control skills. This is because project teams are often put together with a view to achieving the technical aspects of a project rather than anything else. This is a potentially dangerous approach to take to project team building, since people management and administration skills are also essential for a project's success. The project manager's skills may be crucial in this regard, since it is primarily their responsibility to get the project team to work together, whilst being mindful of both the wider organisational agenda and the project deadline.
Managing a project team is complicated by the fact that it is not a constant process, since the behaviour and tasks of the project team reflect the lifecycle of the project. It is argued that project teams go through four identifiable stages of development, at each of which it may be appropriate for the project manager to take particular actions to maximise their performance.
Undeveloped team – This is the stage at which people have been assembled to form a project team but have not yet given much thought about how they might work together. At this stage the project manager needs to be able to get team members to share any concerns and problems that they might have regarding the project. They can begin to develop team cohesion by explicitly identifying the strengths (and weaknesses) of the team.
Experimenting team – The main characteristic of this second stage is that the team makes a conscious effort to review the way in which it works in order to improve performance. The team begins to face problems more openly and consider options more widely. More listening takes place and a broader range of contributions is considered. At this stage the project manager needs to encourage team member openness and debate about ways of working, by inviting feedback on performance and process issues.
Consolidating team – In the third stage the team creates clearer and more methodical ways of working. Attention is given to matters such as clarifying the purpose of tasks and activities, deciding what will need to be done and how, and reviewing progress. At this stage the project manager needs to get the team to agree procedures and methods of working, and to facilitate performance reviews as a means of identifying ways of improving team methods.
Mature team – In the fourth stage the team becomes confident and outward looking, able and willing to take into consideration the wider aspects and implications of what it is doing. At this stage, while the project manager can in general allow the team the autonomy necessary to complete its allotted tasks, they must support any requirements to link up with other teams and units and they must encourage external evaluation of the team's performance.
Team-management tasks remain constant throughout the lifetime of the project. These include continually ensuring that the project team has a shared understanding of the project's remit and objectives, effectively dealing with conflict and disagreement whenever it arises, and generating excitement and celebrating success, where appropriate, in order to maximise team motivation.