Team members often come together as the result of assignments and not by choice.
They come from different backgrounds and have differing working styles. Chances are, they span different time zones and cultures, all of which can create challenges in delivering projects.
To help them come together as a team, I advocate that they define ‘Team Standards’ as they start their project journey together. It is vital that they focus on procedures as well as interactions, since project failures often stem from dysfunctions on either side of this equation. The minimal set of ‘Team Standards’ that I like to use are:
Are the organization’s goals clear, especially how they relate to the project the team is charged with delivering? Are project deliverables part of the team’s performance goals?
Focus on a plan that the team who is charged with delivering, can in fact meet. To that end, a plan should include scope, schedule, cost and any other parameters the team is required to meet. The team needs to define the level of detail required, keeping in mind that larger projects require more detailed plans.
This does not imply any level of complication, instead think of process as “a series of steps taken to achieve a goal”. Typically process should be sized to fit the needs of the organization and the projects they undertake. I also factor scope and cost into the decision of what level of process detail to apply.
Team communications is typically less formal. I like to ensure the team focus is on communication that is timely, transparent and inclusive. Additionally be sure to keep track of actions and manage follow-up.
Have the team define how to handle situations when integrity and competence are in question and when things become uncomfortable. Does the whole team need to discuss issues as they occur? Or will two people affected break off for a one on one discussion to address concerns? Additionally agree to rules regarding when and how escalations take place.
To set your project up for success, let the team define their ‘Team Standards’ and come up with a declaration everyone agrees to. The team will have agreement how to handle most issues that cause problems, conflicts and resulting delays. This exercise is simple to do and can be achieved in a few hours, yet it is critical to avoid costly project overruns and impact later.