Setting Up a Team For Success

It is important to create the appropriate “team” environment. For every project, the specific skills and resources required to achieve the project's goals will vary, but in forming any team, it is essential to apply several basic principles and methods. It is the responsibility of project management not only to select the team, but also emphasize the values that will produce a quality team environment. Below is a list of the core values that should be embraced within a successful team:

  • Trust
  • Fairness
  • Assumed Competence
  • Respect
  • Mentoring Approach
  • Lead from the Front, Not from the Rear
  • Stress Quality
  • Stress the Assumption of Responsibility
  • Reach Consensus on Goals and Obtain Commitment to Meet Them
  • A project manager is the focal point for creating a strong team environment.

Leadership Through Empowerment

An effective leader is an individual who leads others to lead themselves.  The key tools used by an effective leader are delegation and empowerment.  It has been said that if you empower fools you will get foolish decisions faster, but without empowerment you can never recognize the fools from effective performers.  The goal should be to remove the fools and, through mentoring, elevate others to top performer status.  Without delegation and empowerment, it is impossible for an organization to leverage its resources to achieve greater success.  Several key points to apply when empowering team members:

  • Be fair and just
  • Emphasize freedom as part of growth
  • Make commitments and keep them
  • Consult with associates before any action that may adversely affect the reputation or financial stability of the team.

Delegation Capabilities

The two key aspects of delegation are monitoring and mentoring.  A characteristic of delegation supervision is that changes in direction are suggested instead of dictated, and courses of action are encouraged instead of forced.  This process of delegation and empowerment will reveal the team’s inadequate performers.  It is essential for leaders to remove these individuals without hesitation.  Though it may be cliché, the saying holds true, “A bad apple will ruin the barrel”.

Project Atmosphere

Project Environment

One key to the operation of a successful team environment is to provide the appropriate physical environment for performing tasks.  This environment should be free of noise and outside distractions and provide appropriate space for the project tasks.  Proper lighting, equipment, and air-conditioning are critical, as well as sufficient space for storage and retrieval of project resources.  Team members should have immediate access to the tools required for completion of their tasks, and they should not be responsible for installations unless that effort is described as part of their task list.

Individual Tasks

Team members should have well-defined and distinctly scheduled tasks.  Do not allow excessive task overlap, and ensure that team members remain focused on their most critical tasks.  Team members should feel a sense of ownership over their work and benefit from the satisfaction of seeing the completion of their work.

Knowledge Sharing

It is important for team members to exchange knowledge and openly benefit from informal training and learning opportunities.  Members in leadership roles should mentor and provide ad hoc reviews of work on an informal basis in order to increase both the quantity and quality of the sharing of knowledge.  It is also critical that all team members be aware of (and respect) the differences in skills and experience between project members.

Quality Work

The ultimate goal should be for all team members to produce work at the best of their ability, and have their abilities mature over the course of the project.  To achieve this goal, Project Managers must promote an environment focused on quality.  It is important to emphasize an attention to both quantity and quality in the effort, and the finished product.  Team members must feel that they are an integral part of the project and not just “Doing a job”.


Multi-Access Forum

One of the key reasons for the implementation of a Notes environment on Company projects is the need for an open forum in which team members can communicate issues, publish solutions, and share knowledge.  Notes databases are intended to compliment other team communications methods such as meetings, informal discussions, e-mail, etc… but it can also serve to reduce the need for these other forms of communications that often occur without documentation or resolution.

Rapid Repeatable Implementation

One advantage facilitated by the use of database templates in Notes is the ability to create a standard project management toolkit for the rapid and generic deployment of a project Notes environment.  These toolkits reduce the time required for implementation of reporting and documentation standards, and additionally provide a familiar environment for consultants moving from one project to the next.

Promotes and Simplifies Documentation

The web provides many simple tools for facilitating technical and functional discussions, while additionally creating an ongoing archive for project material.  The storage of discussion, status reports, change forms, document attachments, and common objects allows teams to communicate openly without dedicating additional effort for documenting the results.

Increases Team Bonding

The use of project specific discussion databases (with access limited to team members) provides a forum in which team members can actively apply many of the core team values.  Discussion databases are well suited to mentoring and consensus.  General Discussion databases will also provide an outlet for the team to blow of steam and build stronger relationships.

Hallmarks of a Good Leader

Conduct Periodic Project Team Outings

It is critical that team members be treated to periodic outings in which they may blow off steam and spend time together outside of the work environment.  These outings could be in the form of lunches, dinners, happy hours, etc…  While the Project Manager should arrange these outings, they do not always have to be funded by the Project Manager.

Celebrate Team Member Departures When Appropriate

When long-term team members move off the project (whether to new projects or out of the company), provide a celebration to recognize them for their accomplishments.  This celebration serves to boost the departing individual's morale, and it also gives other team members a chance to interact socially.

Celebrate Successful Project Completion

Even after highly successful projects, team members often feel a profound sense of loss that must be brought to a ceremonial conclusion.  The longer the project, the deeper the sense of loss felt by the team.  Celebrate the success and let that be the lasting memory, not the packing of boxes.

Address “What was learned” for Unsuccessful Projects

It is important to bring closure to unsuccessful projects with a lunch or dinner to facilitate a “What was Learned” discussion. This process is cathartic in nature, and helps team members openly discuss areas for improvement.

Do not be “One of the Guys”

One of the most common mistakes made by Project Managers is to behave as if they are still “one of the guys”. The result of this behavior is to produce an imbalance of power between the Project Manager and the project team members.  Managers must perform a number of tasks that place them hierarchically above the project team members.  By establishing an authoritative role above the other project team members, Project Managers are able to effectively perform the following tasks:

  • Making Tough Decisions
  • Handling Personnel Problems
  • Assuring Project Success

This type of mistake can occur in any organization but is particularly acute in organizations with a flat organizational structure such as that currently employed at Company.  When the organization structure emphasizes a team environment without title differentiation, it is much simpler for managers to assume they are on the same level as the team members are.  The flat organization structure facilitates better communication within the overall organization, but this structure does not always translate well the project environment where a defined management role must be filled and clarified.

Always Attend Meetings

Often managers fail to recognize that an important part of their job is to attend meetings. To continually influence and lead team members, the manager must attend meetings and participate in the decision process.

Remember to Delegate

For larger projects, it is critical to the success of the project that the Project Manager effectively delegates responsibilities.