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How to... bring together and foster an effective project team

nina_schmidt Community Leader Jun 19, 2022

Project teams are often even more special than "normal" teams:
- they only have a certain time span together
- there is a fixed goal to work towards
- the project team is often brought together at short notice and for time-critical issues
- the team composition is often mixed in terms of hierarchies, departments and knowledge / areas of expertise
- ...

How do you deal with forming the project team quickly and leading it through the "Tuckman-Team Process" to be able to tackle the often time-critical topics?
And how do you deal with conflicts or disagreements in the team?

I would love to hear your methods and ideas that work in addition to a joint kickoff, role clarification, regular exchanges and shared meals.




For me, the short answer to forming project teams quickly is a) group alignment of the project's purpose and b) an understanding of each person's role as it relates to that shared purpose.

Also, I find that "the more general the goal is + the less documented or shared out the roles and responsibilities are," then "the less focus the project team will have."

  • There should be a finite outcome in mind associated with a finite end. Those that don't have this make up their reason for existing even though their shared purpose is gone. And that's when direction gets hazy.
  • There should be a real reason why each person is on the team. If not, people become less invested or there will be interpersonal conflict due to role confusion. And even if there are excess team members, it won't be great for communication or morale.

When a team forms, I suggest asking: "does everyone know what the problem is, does everyone know why they are on the team, and does everyone know how they're going to resolve the problem together?" If folks walk away without alignment on these answers, the rest of the project will eventually come back to clarify the answers. Might as well do it as early as possible.

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nina_schmidt Community Leader Jun 21, 2022

Totally agree - without assignment, role definition and clear goals no one will be able to work efficient. 
And what methods would you use in addition to these, like team coffee, lunch break, team building like a hiking tour? 

Like # people like this

@Christine P_ Dela Rosa Nailed it. 

I'm not primarily a PM, but I do run the teams for 2 of our internal projects, and everything is best when expectations and goals are clear, and when communication stays open. 

Early in a project, we discuss long term goals, then phase goals, then sprint or "this week" goals. Near the end of each phase, we reprioritize our remaining work together, so everyone is aware of where everyone else's effort is going to be going over the next few months. It's a little like super-size-sprint planning. 

When we all officed together, our team would do lunches and coffee breaks together, and sometimes go for walks around the office neighborhood. While these were mostly social times, they also offered low-stress opportunities for conversation and collaboration.

We've been remote since March 2020, so we have had to develop other ways to build in those "water cooler" conversations. I check in with my teams more intentionally than I used to. My teams have regular stand-ups and demos, and we augment them with chats in and huddles in Slack.

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nina_schmidt Community Leader Jun 21, 2022

Exactly, and those „watercooler talks“ are so important, we established a remote option too. 

Are you thinking about any „welcome back to the office“ activities too? We had a full remote project and as celebration I planned a lunch for the team, some of them have never ever met in person yet. 

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We are staying remote for the foreseeable, since so many of us realized how much we hate our commutes and our productivity is actually better than pre-COVID. 

That said, we are doing little "office-mixers" every couple of weeks - usually a talk or class or HR activity (like insurance renewal) plus snacks and hangout time, and my operations team meets for coffee at a patio coffee shop every week (weather permitting).

Like Viktoriya Borisova likes this

Yes, the excellent ideas provided thus far:

- for actual Projects (defined goal/scope/desired timeframe/etc.), assign people one Project at a time, helping them feel supported for success and focused on the desired outcomes

- help team design/create a t-shirt, or other team identity object, for a shared visible artifact unique to their Project...during the liftoff...and then give it to all team members

- onboard new people who join later with a mini-re-liftoff

- whenever the team meets for work-related activity, after the "gathering" is done, restate the goal of the Project to keep team-vision toward "North"

- use cadenced, round-robin, knowledge sharing for celebration and learning

- pay attention and listen for any "smells" impeding team effectiveness, and take action to help

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