Project Team and Project Management
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Project Team Managment
Team building in a project management context is the process of taking a series of individuals from different functional specializations and welding them together into a unified project team. Although these individuals may belong to a range of organizations, it is the project manager’s responsibility to ensure they work as a team.
The early stages are perhaps the most critical, for these stages are when the team ‘culture’ or way of doing things is established. No matter how the project evolves and how fluid the team remains, the initial culture often continues to prevail throughout the life cycle of the project.
Generally, there are ten primary sections in any good teambuilding process.
• Individual and team commitment.
In order for any teambuilding process to work, the team members must have a level of commitment. The acceptable minimum will vary between teams and projects but, generally, it is desirable that team members share the overall aims and objectives of the project. The degree to which this desire is met in a team will of course vary. It may be easier to develop collective objectives in an internal project management system where all the individuals in the project work for the same organization and therefore (at least to some extent) have common objectives. In an external system, the various participants all work for different organizations and hence may have different loyalties and responsibilities.
Project managers have to be able to develop commitment in their teams. In many cases this is done by aligning individual and project goals so that, as people strive to achieve their own goals and objectives, they also help the company towards its goals and objectives. This duality of objectives can be either direct or indirect.
• Developing a sense of team spirit.
The more competitive and interactive the project is, the greater the need for a good team spirit. Team spirit cannot easily be defined. It is a measure of the motivation of the team and the extent to which its members can work effectively together. The effects of team spirit are apparent in many project examples. For example, it is possible to cite several examples of football matches or other sporting events where a better team has been beaten by an inferior one because the inferior team had better team spirit.
• Obtaining the necessary project resources.
A common reason for many project teams failing to meet objectives is the lack of necessary resources. This applies particularly in systems where team success generates growth. In such cases, it is very important that resources are introduced into the system so that increases in workload are matched by resource investment. Inadequate matching between success criteria and resource investment is one of the main reasons why project teams tend to suffer from quality compromises as productivity increases. Senior management tends to be happy to see project output increasing, but they often are less happy to invest in the project team in order to allow continued increases in productivity.
It is also important for the project manager to ensure that, in addition to the number of people required, the team also has an appropriate mix of skills.
• Establishment of clear individual and team goals and success/failure criteria.
Another common problem area in team building is a lack of clearly defined individual and team goals and success/failure criteria. There must also be a set of clear project success and failure criteria, and these have to be clearly identified in a form that can be quantified and against which project performance can be compared. The most common success and failure criteria relate to time, cost and quality performance, although there could be others.
• Formalization of visible senior management support.
The project team has to operate within the context of the overall organization. The project will be one aspect of the organization’s overall efforts and will feature somewhere within the overall equation that determines the organization’s strategic management policy.
It is very important, both to the success of the project as an entity and to the perceptions of the project team members, that senior management is seen to be backing the project. This can be achieved by senior staff becoming actively involved with it and concerned for its satisfactory performance – for example, by attending major project review meetings.
• Demonstration of effective program leadership.
The project manager has to be able to lead the team. This involves many duties and responsibilities, including some that overlap with other team-building headings (such as motivation). The success of the project will depend on the accuracy of its planning and on the efficiency of its monitoring and control systems. The project team is likely to recognize that these are essential to the success of the overall project and will expect the project manager to take a strong ongoing interest in their development and application. The project manager will also be expected to take personal ownership of larger problems and issues as they arise, and to ensure these are resolved.
• Development of open formal and informal communications.
In most teams, output and efficiency can be related to communications; larger teams and more complex projects tend to have greater requirements for good communications. The latter is also an important motivator because people usually work better if they feel able to communicate with other people in the system, and in particular with the section heads or managers.
This provides them with a direct sense of how the project is progressing and of the priorities and concerns at all stages of the project life cycle. It contributes toward creating strong feelings of team membership in a way that encourages the taking of personal ownership of issues and problems as they arise, and commitment to overcoming them.
Application of reward and retribution systems
Team members have different skills and abilities. However, in most systems at one time or another, bad feeling will arise because some people appear to be working harder and making a bigger contribution than others. The project manager has to set up monitoring and control systems to make sure those good performers are recognized and rewarded, and the poor performers are checked and reprimanded.
• Identification and management of conflict.
Conflict arises in most human systems. Construction project teams, with their multidisciplinary characteristics, high degrees of sentience and interdependency, and pressure to meet time scales in the face of unexpected problems arising, tend to be particularly prone to conflict. Conflict between incompatible individuals is likely to occur whenever numbers of people are in contact with one another, but the high degree of pressure associated with most projects exacerbates this. However, conflict can take other forms, such as conflict between incompatible design and cost information, or design of one aspect being unacceptable in terms of the design of associated sections.
However, not all conflict is bad. In groups engaged on creative work, it can provide the stimulus toward higher levels of achievement and the emergence of novel solutions. Even in these cases, the project manager must ensure that the conflict does not spiral out of control.
It is obviously essential that the project manager is able to lead the project team effectively. If the project team is to work together as one entity, it requires leadership. Leadership as a concept is not easily defined. It covers a wide range of qualities and skills, and these can vary from project to project. Classical leadership traits are as set out next.
• Decision making ability.
The project manager has to be able to make good decisions across a range of different subject areas. Some decisions must be referred to senior management and/or the project sponsor for approval; others may require a collective decision involving all the team members. In all cases, the project manager must gather all the relevant information and then make good decisions or recommendations based on the available information.
The team will need to solve the many problems that will inevitably arise during the project. The project manager provides the problem-solving leadership. The project manager cannot solve every problem personally but can act as a catalyst and focus for the team’s attempt to solve problems.
• Ability to integrate new team members.
Project teams tend to work on relatively short-term projects, and as a result this may not be a major factor. However, longer-term projects, such as major motorway developments, power stations, and major tunnels, may last for more than ten years and a significant number of staff changes can be expected over the duration of the project. This is also sometimes true during major IT systems development and implementation projects.
Integrating new members into established teams is an important skill. The system has to be flexible enough to allow new members to join, and to provide sufficient learning time for new members before they are expected to make a full contribution.
Interpersonal skills can be very difficult to quantify. Some people are good at working with other people and getting them to devote their best efforts to the work at hand, while others find this more difficult. Some people are good at using their persuasive skills to overcome problems and resolve conflicts. The most successful teams tend to be those where individuals relate very strongly to each other and where there is a high degree of comradeship and trust. Project managers with good interpersonal skills are well placed to develop these characteristics within the project team.
• Ability to identify and manage conflict.
Conflict avoidance and control is a key teambuilding skill. The project manager has to be able to identify conflict even where it is not immediately obvious, and to take any necessary actions to resolve it.
Effective communication is a crucial leadership skill. Effective communication is perhaps the single most powerful leadership and control tool
• Interface management skills.
The project manager is in the unusual position of working within a three level continuum consisting of reporting upwards to the senior managers or project sponsor, horizontally to the functional managers, and downwards to the individual project team members. In addition, the project manager could be in charge of a range of external consultants and authorities that all report to different managers. There is, therefore, a need for strongly defined interface management skills as part of the project manager’s leadership effort.
• Factor balancing skills.
Different factors affect the performance of the team, and the relative importance of these factors can change over time. In terms of decision making, problem solving etc., the project manager has to be able to balance the relative weighting of different factors in order to allow the correct decision to be made.
Project management is somewhat unique in terms of the way that leadership requirements vary over time.
First, project teams are characteristically formed for a specific project and last only until the project is completed. The term ‘project’ could, of course, include numerous life cycle phases between inception and recycling inclusive .
Second, project management is typically concerned with the complete life cycle of the project rather than just individual stages .
The functioning of the project team will change to meet the different needs and challenges associated with the specific project requirements and environment at each stage of the life cycle.
Phases of project team leadership
Phase Characteristic Task People Effect
· Inception High Low Telling
· Development High Persuading
· Stabilization Low High Participating
· Maturity Low Delegating
Phase 1 is characterized by high task related, low people related leadership. In this sector, the activities of employees are highly task oriented and there is only a weak relationship between employees and management. These are the typical conditions under which employees would enter an organization
Phase 2 is characterized by high task oriented and high people oriented leadership. This is often the secondary stage of lifecycle team development. The need for strong task leadership remains, as the system has not yet evolved enough to run itself. There continues to be a great emphasis on output and productivity.
Phase 3 is characterized by low task oriented and high people oriented leadership. This sector is the stage in the leadership life cycle where the team has stabilized and output is secure. Under such circumstances, the immediate aims and objectives of the organization have been realized and the manager can move on to consider higher-level motivational factors
Phase 4 is characterized by low task oriented and low people oriented leadership. In theory, if the team has enough time, it will eventually evolve so that it can be ‘left alone’ to run the project. If the team lasts long enough, the team members will develop such operational skills that they no longer need task related leadership or instruction from management, and they no longer need people relationship leadership or instruction.
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Project Team Selection
The Project Team
Most projects are carried out within traditional organizations designed along Functional lines. Projects undertaken in this environment would be allocated to the most appropriate department
Dome for a finite period.
This type of organization may be created as a standalone subsidiary or satellite of a parent organization. It is set up specifically to deliver projects and could be linked to the parent company by a reporting system. Many project organizations have total freedom to organize themselves according to their own preferences but within the limits of final accountability, while others have functional support assigned to them by their parent company.
In most project management applications, project teams are set up within existing functional organizational groups and therefore lie somewhere between the pure functional and pure project extremes. Although projects carried out in this environment may be strategically important to the organization, they are highly unlikely to be the reason for its existence. They are likely to be developmental in nature and would tend to be projects to improve systems, procedures, methods or products; and they would tend to be internal projects for the benefit of the organization’s effectiveness.
There are numerous advantages associated with operating project teams within functional organizations. These include the following:
• The structure provides excellent flexibility and full use of employees.
• Employees are given the opportunity to gain new experience and to develop new skills.
• The overall team and cross functional working attitude of employees is improved.
• Individual experts can share their expertise across a number of different projects.
• Experts working together can create new synergies that cannot evolve in the rigid functional structure.
• Employees working on projects are not prevented from following their primary career path within the function.
• Project membership offers new potential career paths within the organization.
• Making use of internal project team members is often less costly than employing a series of external consultants to provide the same service.
The disadvantages associated with running project teams within an existing functional organization include the following:
• The function continues to operate as normal despite being depleted of resources (at least to some extent) by the project. This can become a serious problem where a number of key people are assigned to projects.
• Functional managers often try to ‘offload’ their less efficient or productive people to projects in the hope that this will minimize the negative effects on the function.
• People who have worked for a long time in a functional environment may have difficulty in adapting to the demands of the project environment.
• Several projects are likely to be running simultaneously within organizations.
A project manager sometimes has difficulty in ensuring that his project is given the priority and attention that it requires.
• There are often communication buffers and bureaucratic layers between projects and senior management while functional units tend to have clearer and longer established communication channels.
• Motivation can be a problem unless the project is given high profile senior management support. Project team members tend to see their project responsibilities as secondary to those of the functional unit.
Team Multi-disciplinary and Heterogeneity Issues
Project teams may operate as individual units within existing functionally structured organizations. They often consist of a range of different specialists from different functional departments and it is this multidisciplinary composition that makes them unusual. Each functional specialist will have distinct qualifications and experience. The project manager has the task of attempting to blend these specialists into an effective project team.
Differentiation (specialism) contributes to sentience and causes teams to fragment.
This can lead to breakdowns in communication among groups of specialists where each group is working on its own particular areas. For example, an engineer would probably prefer to design a building’s foundations and its frame without having to liaise with the surveyor whose job is to ensure that cost limits are not being exceeded. The best solution from an engineering point of view might not be the cheapest nor the most cost-effective.
Integration mechanisms are a basic requirement for teams containing highly differentiated individuals or groups. Integration is simply the process of defining responsibilities and control, and ensuring everyone adheres to the definition.
A highly integrated team is one where everybody knows exactly what they have to do in order to meet the targets. A team that is not integrated is one where there are no specific targets and everybody can do more or less what they think is best at any one time. At the extreme end of this continuum lies the disintegrated team – if indeed it can be called a team at all – where all the participants do what they want and the project objectives are ignored, leading to failure to deliver the projects goals and objectives.
Group and Team Processes
Groups are collections of individuals who work together in pursuance of a common objective. Teams are collections of individuals who work under the direction of a team leader in pursuance of a common objective. A team is therefore a specific kind of group.
Project Team Performance
Team performance is a complex issue. Numerous internal and external factors can influence the performance level of any project team. The strongest single factors in determining a multidisciplinary group’s performance are heterogeneity and cohesiveness.
Heterogeneity is the extent to which the team members are unlike each other, either in terms of qualifications, experience, outlook or a range of other factors that could affect team performance. Generally, the greater the degree of heterogeneity, the more effective the team will be at solving problems. They will consider more information and will brainstorm more effectively. However, this increase in efficiency is at a cost of increased discussion and conflict.
Cohesiveness is a combination of how much the members of the team wants to be members, how well their personal goals are aligned to the team goals, and to the overall commitment and morale of the team members. Generally, the more cohesive the team, the better it will perform.
Project Team Profile
Project Team Mix
The project team consists of the group of people contributing to meet the objectives of the project. Some team members – for example specialists whose expertise is only required for a particular activity over a short time scale – may have very small parts to play in the project as a whole and probably will not feel like part of the close body of people involved in more active and longer lasting roles.
Uniqueness of Project Teams
It is well established that every project is unique, and thus it could follow that every project team must be unique in order to succeed. The differences between project teams may be marginal or they may be enormous. A project team can consist of two or three people in the case of very small projects, or thousands of people in the case of very large projects.
Thus, it is sensible to conclude that there is no set skills profile for an effective project team. The skills employed must fully reflect the nature of the project.
There are, however, three specialist project management positions that need to be filled:
• project manager; • project planner; • project controller.
They are effectively the managing director, the operations director and the financial director of the business that is the project. And, although knowledge of the technology underpinning the project is valuable in performing each of these roles – indeed, it is unlikely that anyone without some knowledge of the industry would be employed in such positions – the primary function in each position is a project management one.
The skills and expertise of the project management team should cover the main areas of the project, and should both recognize and explicitly state where this may be weak. This will draw special attention to that area because any aspect of the project that lacks a competent project management team member supervising and supporting it is in danger of running out of control without the fact being recognized. Looking after particular specialist aspects of the project may not be a fulltime job, and so the team should be flexible and open to temporary members coming in and out whenever their particular expertise is required. shows team members looking after individual work aspects, which would be the principle specialist areas of the project.