Business Essays - Project Team Building

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Project Team Building

Project-Based Team Building

Literature Review Team Building

To understand team building and the methods best adopted to choose a project team, one must first define a team adequately. Biech (2001) suggests that a team includes a group of people or individuals that are “mutually dependent on one another to achieve a common goal” (1). Various other definitions of team suggest that a team must also function well together to succeed. Functionality is an important part of team work, and typically the purpose of a team with respect to a given project.

There are multiple advantages to working in teams, including increasing the likelihood that an organization will achieve a better end result with respect to a project (Beich, 2001). Many organizations are adopting a team based approach to respond to the needs of a changing global marketplace. Teams often have the ability to more closely gauge customer needs and provide more information regarding technological changes, as well as provide a faster response to problems than “traditional hierarchies” (Biech, 2001:2).

There are multiple characteristics of successful teams; these include: established clear goals, have defined roles, open and clear communication, provide for effective decision making, provide balanced participation, value diversity and manage conflict efficiently (Biech, 2001:14). How does one go about developing teams that do this? Team responsibilities must be clearly identified and delegated. This can occur through open channels of communication and by sharing role perceptions within the team (Biech, 2001).

A team must include a master leader responsible for mentoring and coaching other members of the team, as well as promoting decision making activities within the team (Williams, 1998). The leader should serve as a mentor, encouraging team members to develop effective methods of communicating a shared vision by providing an example of how to do so; the leader must also serve to motivate and empower people to attain their desired outcome (Williams, 1998). The leader may serve as a chairperson to the team, helping provide continuous support and reaction to other members.

Code, Langan-Fox & Langfield-Smith (2000) suggest that effective team building and functioning can only result when members of the team share a team “mental model” that is clear and precise or represented. Further they suggest that effective team functioning results when an individual or chair within the team work with other team members to help influence the development of a mental model that will elicit the desired outcomes within the team (Code, et al., 2000). A mental model may include specific interventions and objectives for making decisions with the intent of achieving organizational objectives. This can be achieved by providing team members with a ‘verbal protocol analysis”, but analyzing and representing information or by brainstorming various methods and providing guidelines to team members (Code, et al., 2000).

Hughes (1993) suggests that a facilitator should be present within a team to help explain in detail how every participant’s talents, insights and contributions are necessary for the team to achieve their end goals and objectives. Further the researcher suggests open communication is the most essential component of a successful team, allowing individual team members to help understand issues and avoid barriers that “cause company failures” (Hughes, 1993:20). Someone should also according to Hughes, be appointed to “track and measure team progress” toward specific goals, organizing “follow up sessions” for all team members to gauge the teams progress and effectiveness toward achieving team goals (p. 20).

The fastest way to achieve goals and build a team is through a “straight path” one that empowers staff members to use their individual talents within a team as part of a “combined effort” so that the organization as a whole benefits as well as individual members of the team (Hughes, 1993: 20). An organization must also work toward establishing a well defined team-building process that includes use of well defined objectives (Hughes, 1993:20). Goals for the team should include creation of effective knowledge sharing and exchange, sharing of ideas and sharing of individual team member’s skills and abilities (Hughes, 1993). An effective team is created when each member of the team uses their strengths and experiences to produce a whole that is stronger than the sum of the individual parts of the team (Hughes, 1993).

Cooperation is also vital to successful team building. A chairperson or facilitator can adopt multiple strategies when building a team to enhance cooperation and communication. These strategies for improving team building include: (1) creating a team that is interdependent, where all members coordinate their efforts to achieve corporate goals, (2) identifying leaders that support the overall goals and objectives of the team but also help support and define a “team concept”, (3) Encourage members to try new ideas and “identify was to relate to leaders and peers”, (4) establish communication patterns that are open and enable the team to easily understand the expectations of other team members and management, (5) team members must work with a competent facilitator to identify any underlying issues that may impede group development and lastly (6) senior group members must believe that positive results can come of new changes and strategies introduced by newer members of the team (Hughes, 1993:20).

Brannick, Prince & Salas (1997) suggest that effective team building can only occur when team performance measurement tools are in place to evaluate the teams achievements, purpose and progress toward achieving certain goals. Teams according to the authors, are a “fact of life” and can account for “real differences in outcomes” when created and utilized effectively (Brannick, 1997:3). There are multiple approaches to evaluating team performance.

Among the more commonly adopted include evaluating the team's progress and success at achieving organizational goals and objectives within the scope of the team’s project (Brannick, 1997). Teams are more than just groups of people; teams are groups of people within the organization that share a certain function and whose roles and responsibilities are interchangeable, particularly with regard to a given project (Brannick, 1997). Given this sentiment it makes sense that teams should be not only brought together to complete or achieve a specific purpose but also evaluated based on their ability to achieve this purpose and serve the organization as a whole (Brannick, 1997).

Team Roles and Strengths

Team roles vary within an organization. It is important that all team member's roles are clearly defined and that team members understand what their role and what their job role is with respect to the team (Biech, 2001). This helps promote greater uniformity, open communication and clarity within the team. Defined roles also help team members understand why they are members of a team and how they support a team (Biech, 2001). Some studies suggest that conflict is more likely to occur in teams when roles are not clearly defined. Among the primary roles that are essential to teams include tasks roles and maintenance roles (Biech, 2001).

Task roles are important for ensuring that work is accomplished in the team; people who participate in task roles help “generate, organize and complete the work” (Biech, 2001). Examples of task roles include the proposer, shaper, coordinators and procedures (Biech, 2001: 15). Maintenance roles help support group communication, interpersonal relationships in the group and help promote group “cohesion” (Biech, 2001: 15).

Maintenance roles include people who are motivators, reconcilers and chair people assigned the role of overseeing the group and ensuring proper vision, communication and strategy implementation (Biech, 2001). Within any team members will often have both maintenance and task related roles (Biech, 2001). In an effective group structure team members will pitch in to contribute to what needs to be done for the team to realize success regardless of their ‘formal’ role in the team.

Using the Belbin results and current management structure of the organization in question, the team currently in place consists of the following: managing director, quality and technical manager, human resources leader, health and safety manager, project engineer, accountant and customer support officer. Within this structure the HR leader and project engineer are the only individual workers assigned the role of team worker. The project engineer serves a dual role as chairman, and the customer support officer serves as organiser. The majority of other members serve as shapers and completers.

How To Choose a Project Team

Selecting a project team is a complicated and complex task contingent on multiple variables. To ensure the greatest possible success for the team, selection of the project team should take into consideration each of the team member’s individual goals and objectives, as well as the organizations goals and objectives (Biech, 2001). Additionally selection of the team should involve interview of team members to assess their motivations for participating and their skills (Biech, 2001).

Inevitably some members of a team will be drawn to certain roles over others. Someone with technical skills for example will be drawn more to task roles than maintenance roles within the team structure. Despite this it is important that when selecting a project team managers combine task and maintenance roles to encourage balance within the team.

For teams to be successful, the membership must also include a sampling of a diverse selection of candidates that represent multiple areas of the organization (Williams, 1998). A diverse selection of team members will ensure that the team is balanced and afforded the maximum opportunity for success within the organization.

Diversity within a team encourages knowledge sharing provided the team is structured in a manner that facilitates open communication and knowledge sharing. To this extent individuals within the team should be assigned the role of facilitating open communication and knowledge sharing. Members of the team must also share a common vision and common strategy for reaching the organization’s goals and objectives while also carrying out personal goals and objectives.

A project team should also be selected based on the organization’s time frame for completion of a selected project (Williams, 1998). If members of a team are familiar with one another and have the skill set necessary to complete the objectives designed by the team, then the chances are much greater that the team will achieve its objectives at an efficient and productive pace. Some teams are best reserved for learning experiences where more time is afforded training and development of team’s communication and production capabilities (Williams, 1998).

How to Change the Current Functional management Structure to Carryout Project

Much of the research examined suggests that while participative management and leadership is essential to good team functioning, it is not necessary for achieving a teams goals and ensuring team efficiency (Biech, 2001). In the current functional management structure the organization is still dominated by hierarchical lines of authority. While a team based approach may encourage more participative management, hence empowering teams, it is not the ideal structure for facilitating maximum success in projects within the organization.

The current management structure should be changed to assign each member of the team dual roles. This suggests that each member of the team be assigned maintenance and task roles. For each individual currently labeled as a ‘shaper’ for the team, this individual should also carry out a role that includes enhancing interpersonal communication and ensuring other members of the team feel equally supported and motivated.

One way to do this would be to rotate roles each team member shared when accomplishing various projects. The role of ‘team chairman’ then could be changed from project to project to ensure that multiple members of the team had the opportunity to lend leadership to the team. The research available on team building suggests that the role of leader in a team can be shared by one or more people, or rotated from project to project to ensure that the organizations goals and objectives are met but to also ensure the greatest possible diversity within the team setting.

Conclusions/Discussion

Teams are more than a group of people brought together. Teams have been defined in many ways, but an effective definition and model of team performance is generally agreed on as being a group of two or more individuals with common goals and objectives that share responsibility for completing an assigned task or project.

Effective team building occurs when teams are structured in a manner that encourages open communication and coordination. Members of the team may be assigned various task and maintenance roles to ensure the functionality of the team but also to ensure that team members remain motivated and that conflict within the team is avoided.

Hierarchical structures such as the one presented are not ideal for facilitating the maximum team performance. Studies suggest that participative management and sharing of leadership roles and task roles within the team is most likely to result in successful outcomes for projects and the organization.

When selecting a team organizations should consider individual members skills and abilities, experiences and history but also the diversity of the team and ability of team members to work effectively with one another. The team should incorporate a combination of people with both task strengths and maintenance strengths. Roles within the team may be interchangeable at times to promote knowledge sharing and the most efficient means of achieving team goals. Performance evaluation is also necessary to assess the efficacy of team measures and processes and to restructure the team when necessary to ensure members goals and objectives are in line with one another.

References:

Biech, E. (2001). The Pfeiffer book of successful team building tools: Best of the Annuals.

San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

Brannick, M.T., Prince, C. & Salas, E. (1997). Team performance assessment and

measurement: Theory, methods and applications. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Code, S., Langan-Fox, J. & Langield-Smith, K. (2000). “Team mental models:

techniques, methods and analytic approaches.” Human Factors, 42(2): 242.

Hughes, K.T. (1993). “A Manager’s Guide to the Art of Team Building.” Security

Management, 37(11): 20.

Williams, M.R. (1998). “Mastering leadership: Key techniques for managing and leading

a winning team.” London: Thorogood.

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