Change and Motivation Management of Project Team
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Project Change Management
The project and the project team are subject to constant change throughout the life cycle of the project. However, there has historically been very little attempt to standardize lifecycle phases and either the individual or the team responses in these to change.
This situation is changing to some extent with the introduction of new national and international standards on project management practice. The new British Standard for Project Management Practice (BS6079) advocates the use of a standard generic strategic project plan or SPP. This defines standard planning and control systems and gives recommended standard approaches to change control.
Project Team Evolution
Teams evolve over time through a number of recognized phases. Each phase is characterized by different team behavior as each stage of evolution is followed by succeeding stages. Tucker’s widely known four stages of team development are summarized as forming, storming, norming and performing.
Forming is the start of the process. In forming, the team meets for the first time, the introductions are made and the project aims and objectives are established. The forming process involves an individual and group evaluation of the project as a whole and of the team itself. The forming process is dominated by the ‘first meeting’, where the team summarizes the main project and team characteristics and aims.
The storming stage is about establishing cohesiveness. As individual team members begin to know each other better, they are able to build up a clearer picture of each person in terms of ability, commitment, skill, interpersonal skills etc. As these perceptions develop, there is an increasing tendency for conflict. The development of a cohesive group ideal is imperative.
Cohesiveness is essential to productivity and effectiveness. This cohesion must develop; if it does not, the group will be unproductive. However, in most cases the cohesion can only develop if the storming process is managed subtly
Norms are team standards. Any group or team will develop both formal and informal standards of behavior that all members will be expected to observe. This norming process starts as soon as the storming process is complete and the organizational hierarchy and power structure has been established. Team norms vary widely in relation to a range of individual, team, organizational, and external influences. Standards of performance are likely to differ between projects because of differences in the expectations and demands of different clients.
Once the team norms are in place, the process of actually performing begins. The team can only perform at anything like full capacity if it has overcome any internal fragmentation that may have occurred in the storming process. In addition, performing can only take place if a full set of norms is in place. All team members have to be satisfied that the team is equitably balanced and that the contributions of each member are adequate. The performing team has resolved most or all of its interpersonal conflicts. Any new conflicts that arise can be dealt with professionally by the team and would not require the intervention of higher authorities.
Groupthink can occur where a group of individuals becomes very highly – sometimes totally – committed and motivated towards a set of beliefs, aims and objectives that the group shares. These may or may not be consistent with those of the other members of the project team, with the remainder of the organization, or with the reasons the project is being undertaken. Important inconsistencies can cause serious problems that adversely impact on the effective operation of the team. Under the right conditions, the whole project team will enter a groupthink state.
Groupthink is sometimes an unintended consequence of highly successful team development and often starts to express itself during the performing stage of the development process.
• Absolute commitment to the project.
Groupthink develops a misdirected certainty in the minds of group members as to the right and justice of the project. It may also include delusions of the relative importance of the project to the overall corporate strategy of the organization. Individual project managers may develop disproportionate perceptions of the value of their projects.
• Lack of respect for competitors.
Negative propaganda is another aspect of groupthink. High cohesion and commitment can lead to the development of misdirected perceptions of direct and indirect competition. In some cases, derisory attitudes can even develop between branches of the same organization. This type of derisory attitude can often be observed between accounts department personnel and engineers or salesmen.
Powerful group cohesion and commitment can lead to an intolerance of any dissenters i.e. people with alternative points of view. Informal or formal rules and regulations are put in place to dissuade dissension and to ensure that team members either follow ‘the party line’ or leave the team.
Team members may perceive that something is wrong but choose to censor them and remain silent rather than challenge the leader or be seen to be in conflict with the aims and objectives of the group.
Groupthink usually occurs where cohesion and commitment are very high. Incoming information is filtered to portray only good results and nobody is willing to criticize the team and the leadership. One result can be that the team develops a false sense of invincibility.
• Selective reporting.
Another common groupthink element consists of team filters. These are individuals or subgroups that filter all information entering the system in order to ensure that only positive information enters and negative information is suppressed or reduced. This action is perceived to be necessary as negative feedback and criticism is unacceptable in groupthink.
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Project Team Motivation
Motivation is a highly complex area and includes a multitude of different elements. The approach (es) required in order to increase levels of motivation will depend on the characteristics of the particular project team. Individuals and teams can be naturally (self) motivated or may need to be artificially (externally) motivated.
• Relative importance of the needs.
The relative importance of each element will vary from project to project, from team to team, and from individual to individual. Safety could be far more important to team members on a project that involves toxic or radioactive materials than one developing a software system.
• Time based requirements.
Generally, the higher the level of need being considered, the more there is a time element involved. Developing a sense of comradeship and togetherness takes time. In some cases (such as self-actualization) it may take a great deal of time.
• Unsatisfied needs.
The hierarchy shows the needs at each level but there is obviously no guarantee that any one individual need will be satisfied. Some employees may well have a need for a sense of self-actualization, but if this is not allowed to happen – possibly because the nature of the project or organizational influences cannot accommodate it – the result can be resentment and employee dissatisfaction, which will in turn affect performance and output.
• Complex needs.
Higher level needs are more subjective than lower level ones. It is easy to determine when a person needs food, and also to determine how much food is needed at any one time. It is much more difficult to work out an exact requirement for self-actualization, and to specify exactly when this need has been met. Some people will feel fulfilled at different levels than other people.
Fulfilled needs are no longer motivators. According to Maslow, much of an individual’s motivation is therefore based on anticipation. People are motivated by the belief that the future will provide fulfillment of the next level of needs. The reward system therefore needs to reflect this belief.
Equity Theory and Expectancy Theory
Equity theory is based on the perceptions of individuals in relation to what they do and how they are rewarded. Employees perceive the fairness or otherwise of their rewards by comparing these, and the level of effort necessary to obtain them, with those of other employees. Any perception of receiving an inadequate personal reward generates a feeling of inequity (unfairness).
• Seek promotion.
This will increase the amount of reward, although it could also increase the contribution required. However, the contribution could be of a different kind and (perhaps) be more attractive. This is the best option as far as the project is concerned, although it depends on the ability of the system to meet that particular need.
• Seek increased reward level.
Employees who feel they are doing a particularly good or important job could ask for an increase in salary. Agreeing to this inflates project costs and can normally only be justified if the cost can be passed on to the client in some way or is covered by contingency amounts within the project’s budget.
• Make a lesser contribution.
A common way to reduce the perceived inequality, and the easiest of the three to execute, is for the employee to reduce his or her own contribution while maintaining the same reward. Again, the overall efficiency of the project is reduced and perceived inequity elsewhere in the system is likely to increase.
• Increase other inputs.
This could happen where additional resources are put in as a result of individual(s) making a lesser contribution. Such a situation can arise because individuals unilaterally decide to reduce their contribution, or where the supervisor decides that employees are being asked to do too much. In any case, the perceived inequity acts as a motivator. Employees will strive to correct the situation so that the perceived inequity is corrected.
Expectancy theory suggests that people are motivated to make efforts to achieve goals that they believe will result in obtaining the rewards they desire. It is based on the idea that motivation is related to personal goals and objectives.
Expectancy theory suggests project managers can motivate team members even where the individuals have no immediate financial incentive to improve their performance. The individual employees can be motivated provided that the successful completion of the project can in some way be linked to the personal goals of the individual.
Project Team Communications
In order to ensure good working relationships, to monitor and control, and to take swift corrective actions when required, project managers require good flows of information. Information flows in two directions, 1) inwards to the project managers from other people and organizations and 2) outwards from the project manager to others. Both formal and informal communications will be used as appropriate. One reason for establishing informal communications is because the time taken by formal communication channels to identify and report problems arising can be overly long. This can result in problems becoming very serious before any corrective action is taken. Informal channels can respond faster on occasions, but not always.
Communication among the various people and organizations involved in a project is analogous to the central nervous system of a body. Communication is the process by which the project manager sends out information, directives and objectives and then monitors actual performance. The quality of the information flowing through the system, and of the system through which it flows, is vitally important. For example, communications containing data that is relevant, accurate, and delivered on a timely basis to the appropriate decision makers are essential for monitoring and control purposes.
Good communication involves high quality information sharing and exchange.
However, the lead roles can change hands as required because personnel have a mutual commitment to addressing and solving problems quickly. Seminars are often held so that project team members can get a better understanding of the issues faced by other members. Many meetings are informal because this engenders trust among team members and they are more likely to respond to requests to express their viewpoints on the various issues. Successful project managers listen carefully to the views of their project teams. Inadequate project communications is a common cause of many project failures. Problems often stem from poor quality information, inaccuracies, or being out of date, or from information that is ineffectively collected or distributed.
The project environment is highly conducive to effective communication because of the nature of the project structure. Being built along horizontal lines and having a relatively flat hierarchy encourage direct, quick and open discussion without fear of recrimination from the distant top of the organizational structure. This type of communication results in quick decision making, which is an important aspect of projects with their conflicting constraints and commercial deadlines.
Whatever method is used to carry the communication, the message will basically fall into two of four principal categories: formal or informal, and internal or external, as described next.
Formal and Informal Communication
Formal lines of communication are set up with the purpose of ensuring that project stakeholders get whatever information they need, delivered in a suitable format when and where they need it, and that there is a means of providing a reciprocal service by delivering accurate and timely information into the system as required. In well run projects, formal communication lines are strictly adhered to and rigorously maintained. Good formal communication lines are an essential element for successfully collecting and disseminating project information. A well-managed system will monitor and record the flow of information. This is particularly important in the project environment where deadlines are tight and contracts contain many obligations relating to issuing and receiving information.
Formal communication tools include:
• Frequently issued reports on all aspects of the project, with clearly defined distribution lists to ensure that only relevant people receive the information;
• regular project meetings, where information is disseminated in person – this encourages debate and discussion but can result in conflict, which needs to be carefully managed to prevent it obstructing the communication lines;
• Project memos;
• project newsletters that are useful for distributing information of lower urgency or of a social nature around the project team – these can be of immense value in helping to integrate the project team;
• a project noticeboard;
• project a way days and events. –
Although informal communications systems are much less easy to manage and control, they are nevertheless essential to the project team from a social and integrative perspective.
The informal communication system in most projects and organizations tends to revolve around the ‘grapevine’ and, whilst it is largely impossible to control the grapevine, it is possible to influence it. A healthy project ‘grapevine’ can identify and expose real project issues very quickly, whereas the unhealthy project grapevine will be a safe haven for resentment and disillusionment within the project team members. Rather than expose issues and deal with them, the unhealthy grapevine will harbor issues and allow them to grow (often out of all proportion) and can be instrumental in destroying the effectiveness of the project team.
Project managers can put informal communications to better use if they can influence the channels in a positive way to encourage good working relationships between team members. This can be done in a number of ways, but some well-known examples are as follows:
Internal and External Communications
Project communication is either internal to project team members, or external to all other people, and it is important to know who is being communicated to. In general, the informal channels are solely used for the purposes of internal communications, although the increasing popularity in informally leaking information as currently observed in world politics will, no doubt, filter its way down into the project environment. External communications are generally conducted through explicit formal channels.
Good internal communications rely on team members’ willingness to communicate and disseminate information openly, particularly that relating to problem areas and issues. Good external communication is almost the antithesis of this and requires absolute control in the dissemination of information. In large projects, the external communication channel is often via a single highly trained expert communicator who is well-versed on the ‘party line’ and under no circumstances will be drawn into other areas.
It is essential to nominate an individual who is responsible for all external communications and it is absolutely vital that the other project team players are fully aware of who this is. This individual should approve all non-routine communications with outside parties. If this is not done, the messages released by the project team members may appear mixed, conflicting, and confusing and could be highly damaging to the success of the project