Promoting teamwork – OPEN

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Topic 10.3: Promoting teamwork

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Team-building activities can vary from a five-minute agenda item in a status review meeting to an off-site, professionally facilitated experience designed to improve interpersonal relationships.

These activities are particularly valuable when project team members operate from remote locations without the benefit of face-to-face contact.

Informal communication and activities can also help build trust and establish good working relationships.

Beyond that, what are some of the specific things you can do to promote effective teamwork?

  • Efficient and effective communication

    In the previous unit, we discussed at length the importance of efficient and effective communication.

    In the team dynamic, this involves setting clear expectations, regularly engaging with team members throughout the project’s life, as well as accepting, responding to and visibly acting on their feedback.

    The communication model
  • Efficient and effective communication

    Beyond meeting the basic resource needs of team members and proving an appropriate physical work environment, enabling a culture of innovation is also essential if people are to rise to peak performance.

    Now as you will recall from the first module, innovation is most simply and reliably defined as successful change, and projects, more often than not, are the vehicles we use to deliver it.

    Yet all too often, project managers fall into the trap of becoming slaves to their project plan, instead of slaves to their project objectives.

    As a consequence, opportunities to realise efficiencies in project delivery (or enhancements to the deliverable itself) can be missed.

    Creating an environment that facilitates creativity – and a culture that encourages and rewards the same – can therefore add tremendous value to your projects. It is value that cannot be contemplated at the planning stage.

  • Provide challenges

    To that end, once role familiarity is achieved, it is important that team members are provided with challenges and opportunities to apply and enlarge their knowledge and skills throughout project delivery.

    Giving others extended decision-making authority (within the bounds of their experience), not only enriches their own work, but relieves you, the project manager, of some of your responsibility as well.

  • Improve trust

    All of this goes to improving their trust in you as a manager; you should also make every effort to improve trust in each other as well.

    Allowing or even enabling opportunities for team members to get to know each other personally will make team members more empathetic towards each other, and reduce the risk of divisions or cliques forming.

  • Embrace failure

    That sometimes means embracing failure – many of the greatest innovations are often unintended.

    Breakthroughs such as the discovery of penicillin or the power of microwaves were the result of accidents.

    Therefore, a willingness to tolerate set-backs on the path to success is an essential element of any project culture.

You should always recognise and reward good performance.

People are motivated if they feel they are valued in the organisation, and this value is demonstrated by the rewards given to them.

Generally, money is viewed by most as a very tangible aspect of any reward system, but other intangible rewards are also effective.

People clapping in the workplace

Most project team members are motivated by an opportunity to grow, accomplish and apply their professional skills to meet new challenges.

Public recognition of good performance creates positive reinforcement.

A good strategy for project managers is to give the team all possible recognition during project delivery, rather than waiting until after the project is completed.

It is also important that only desirable behaviour is rewarded.

For example, the willingness to work overtime to meet an aggressive schedule objective should be rewarded or recognised; needing to work overtime as the result of poor planning by the team member should not be rewarded.

Nevertheless, team members should not be punished for poor planning and consistently unrealistic expectations imposed by senior management.

Interestingly, win-lose (zero sum) rewards that only a limited number of project team members can achieve, such as team member of the month, can actually hurt team cohesion.

Rewarding behaviour that everyone can achieve, such as turning in status reports on time, tends to increase support among team members.

Cultural differences should also be considered when determining recognition and rewards; for example, developing appropriate team rewards in a culture that encourages individualism can be difficult.

It is therefore important that the appropriate time and cost allowances are made in the original project plan for all these activities – communication, trust-building, recognition and rewards – to occur.

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