How do experienced project managers create and nurture a high performing project team? In my experience, a high performing project team has a mutual purpose that binds them together and ratchets their performance to an exceptional level that is more than the sum of its parts? In their book, The Wisdom of Teams, Katzenbach and Smith list five qualities of high-performing teams that make those teams different from an “ordinary” team. Those qualities include:
Many of the fundamental aspects of a PRINCE2* project can contribute to a high-performing project team. Of particular interest to me is the Organization theme, where clear roles and responsibilities on the project are defined, agreed-upon and used on a daily basis. These roles and responsibilities encompass all areas of the project – business, users and suppliers. They also define each level of the project as far as who directs, who manages and who performs the actual specialist or technical project work. PRINCE2, with it’s strategies and other management products, provides an excellent framework for making decisions and resolving project-specific conflicts.
Another thing I have experienced with my high-performing project teams is the extraordinary level of trust between the team members. The team members are able to align their personal interests and expertise and focus them on achieving a successful project outcome. In the case of a high-performing project team, the sum that defines the team and its efforts is definitely greater than just adding up all of the people on the team.
Team members on high-performing teams are not afraid to communicate with one another. The PRINCE2 Communication Management Plan defines the more formal communication mechanisms for the project. The team itself can take communication to the next level between team members, particularly in a work environment with a high level of trust.
Many times, I have found that my role as the project manager on a performing team is to get external obstacles out of the team’s path and let them get their work completed without my involvement. On the one hand, my performing teams have made me feel a little bit “left out”. On the other hand, why complain about such a wonderful and often unexpected level of team performance? High-performing teams are what make being a project manager such a great experience. Using PRINCE2 and it’s thorough approach to managing your projects and your project teams is certainly a step in the right direction.
*PRINCE2® is a registered trade mark of the Cabinet Office.
Reference: Katzenbach, J.R., & Smith, D.K. (1994). The Wisdom of Teams. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.