Sunday, 12 January 2014

For Project Leaders: 6 Ways to Make the Most of Your Team

As a project leader, you know your team is your greatest asset; the success or failure of any project you have on your hands leans very heavily on how effectively you can coordinate and engage your team with your project. But how can you make the most of your team?

Here are six ways you can make the most of your team by combining textbook project management with a little extra creativity:

1. Carefully Evaluate Your Team’s Skill Pool

This is something every project leader should do. It helps to know exactly what each team member is bringing to the table. Assess skills by category (type of skill e.g. word processing, graphic design, web design) and level (basic, intermediate, advanced) in order to have a more holistic picture of the strengths and composition of your team.

Draw up simple charts like the one shown below which detail the team members that possess required project skills and ranks them according to their level of mastery. 

This provides you with a pretty decent ‘resource map’ that you can use in effectively allocating project teams.

When you have properly evaluated the skill pool of your team, the second technique plays a critical role in how your team interacts with the project:

2. Prepare a Visual Model for Your Project

Visual models such as Gantt charts and flow charts help team members have a more realistic grasp on what the project is about, what their roles are, and how the team should work together to get the project completed.

A visual model (like the project flowchart shown above) helps team members appreciate the flow of the project from start to completion, and how they are connected with its success. 

This visual model is retained in their minds as they work on their respective tasks, and helps them (and you) continuously evaluate their contribution to the project.

3. Link Your Team’s Skills to Aspects of Your Project Model

After you’ve developed your visual model, you should describe the skills required at each stage or phase of the project. It should be clear how each skill contributes to the tasks that need to be done at every stage of the project (this is already done in the figure above, for example).

The fourth technique optimizes your team by forming specialized units:

4. Form Optimized ‘Project Teams’ by Linking Skills to Tasks

This is a key aspect of the process. This is where you attach members of your team to project areas by linking their skills to specific tasks required in those areas of the project.
It is possible that a team member will be assigned to multiple teams on account of overlapping required skills. At the end of this exercise, you will have developed a number of optimized ‘project teams’ from your original team.

The figure below modifies our earlier project visualization to identify members of project teams based on skill:

The last two techniques ensure that your process is sustainable and maximally productive at any point in time:

5. Encourage Interaction and Brainstorming within Project Teams

Project teams should be encouraged to interact and brainstorm to come up with the best ways of approaching available tasks. This type of open contribution process will likely improve the outcome of project tasks because each team member contributes uniquely, based on their individual knowledge and experience.

6. Obtain Regular Feedback from Project Teams and Assess Project Performance 

Regular feedback from project teams is important to help you, the project leader, evaluate the progress of their work relative to what is expected. It will also help the members of each project team to be more conscious of deadlines and their contribution to the project’s success.

Major Points

In this article, we have seen six ways you can make the most of your team as a project manager:

·         We talked about the importance of carefully evaluating skill pools for your team members, to help you have a holistic view of the strengths and composition of your team

·         We saw how preparing a visual model for your project can greatly impact team members’ understanding of, and connection to, the project and their roles, leading to better performance in project tasks and better outcomes for the project as a whole

·         We looked at how to link team members’ skills to project tasks and form optimized project teams from the original team

·         Finally, we discussed the benefits of encouraging open contribution within project teams and regularly assessing project team feedback and performance, especially in terms of motivating and evaluating your team.

We hope you enjoyed and benefited from the article. Please share your questions, comments, and feedback with us – let’s talk!