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Monday, January 9, 2017

Team Is Work

     “What is a team, and why do we need to know what it is?”
     That’s a standard discussion point for any meaningful consideration of basic Project Management. After all, Project Management is all about people working together to accomplish something new. The “working together” part is teamwork.
     Actually, the basic question often doesn’t come up at all, because we believe everyone knows what a team is, and how it is vital to the effective management of projects. So we launch our projects assuming we’ll be a team and it will work.
     Well, do we really know what a team is or how it should work? Or what it could accomplish? Or how short most of our group activity falls from gaining the benefits of this invaluable concept?
     Most of all, we don’t realize how studiously we avoid developing teamwork and how seriously that mistake damages our potential for project success.
     We may not connect project shortfalls with inadequate teamwork. We sort of assume projects, by their nature, never get close to 100 percent – that’s just the way it is.

     I’m not sure I’ve ever served on a true team, although I do remember some heady days on a couple of occasions when small groups of enthusiasts collaborated in pulling off some startling innovations.
     Maybe that was teamwork, and maybe those were projects, but at that time I had never heard of either – real teamwork or real projects – so there is no way of knowing for sure.   
        What was common to such moments was their sudden, unexpected appearance and their equally spontaneous evaporation. People like me would yearn forever after for another shot of that feeling, wondering where the lucky moment came from and where it went.
     And, most of all, what might be the magic formula that could call it up on demand. When faced with a great opportunity or a powerful new problem, how could we summon the mutuality of effort and imagination that once pushed ordinary co-workers to so high a level? How did we do that? How can we do it again?

     The answers to those questions now seem pretty simple. We did it back then by pure happenstance. And the only way we can reliably seek to do it again is by intention, most importantly backed up by willingness to engage the discomfort of change.
     The first, and hardest, change we must design and enforce is internal to each of us. We will specify what is to be accomplished and recognize it will take a serious joint effort to get there. Each of us will consciously sweep away personal preferences and prejudices.
     We will open up to each other and devote ourselves to the work of research and consultation that is the only means of igniting creativity. We will listen to each other with open minds, banning private tendencies toward competition of ideas and experience.
     Most of all, we will make up our minds – each of us – that it often appears deceptively simpler and faster to just do it myself. More comfortable, too. We will remind ourselves and each other that we determined at the very beginning that group effort is the only route to the desired conclusion.

     Besides, experience tells us: When we handle a challenge alone, we inevitably reduce it to a size we can manage. The corollary is that a committed group almost automatically enlarges and enhances the value of the outcome – IF the members of the group fully share commitment to a clear outcome.
     This is work.
     Start with ourselves. We all can agree with the potential payoff of working together, but our inner perfectionists complain. Simply bottling up our reluctance won’t do, though. We have to overcome it.
     Most people eligible for team work are the kind who take personal commitment seriously. They are unusually good at what they do, and they tend to be impatient with what happens when they have to slow down to accommodate the burdens of partnership and group activity. They’d much rather do it alone.
     So each of us has to work on our motivation, finding true personal value in our share of the common outcome. Our investment of effort will be commensurate with the perceived payoff – to that inner perfectionist.

     If this team business is to work, we also must commit to the listening, explaining and negotiation that constitute the lifeblood of teamwork. That takes substantial time, thought and effort. Additionally, and maybe most difficult, we will have to agree to work energetically in pursuit of methods we consider inferior to our own.
     No wonder real discussion and real agreement for real teamwork are so rare.


Team Is Work. Real Team? Real Work.


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