Collaborate to Uncover the Genius of Your Team
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
~ Henry Ford
Whether you are in the world of Agile or of Waterfall, getting your projects completed requires a team. Getting that team working together is critical to successfully delivering the requirements that your clients need. When they do, it has sometimes been defined as “magic”. When team members disagree, argue, or withdraw, stress mounts, people become dissatisfied and leave the project or the company.
When it comes to teamwork, there are times when things can easily get out of control. Dealing with other people can sometimes make you feel frustrated no matter what the setting. Whether you are the Project Manager, the Scrummaster, or a member of the team, you are in a position to improve communication and collaboration in your team.
There is no magic wand to make a dysfunctional team become highly productive but there are strategies you can employ to successfully deliver your project. Let’s discuss a few collaboration techniques to make team work a level playing field for everyone involved.
Start with Tolerance and Respect
It would be great if everyone’s style is the same, but, but unfortunately, that is not the case. People have different communication styles, different personalities and different life issues that come to work with them. Some people love to tackle problems with others and some people prefer working alone. Then there are cultural differences. In today’s business world, technology allows professionals to work from anywhere in the world so teams can include multi-lingual, multi-cultural, and geographically distributed members.
Just understanding and acknowledging that people are different and have a basic right to contribute in their own way, goes a long way to keeping people connecting and collaborating. If we accept that people want the best for the project and the customers, it removes the impulse to challenge what we disagree with. Instead, we listen. We understand. Then, we can discuss.
On projects, teaming is a way of life. That means conflict is, too. From the time the project starts, you will have to deal with conflict. Although some conflict allows people to voice different perspectives, if not channeled, most conflict leads to non-productive behaviors. These can include avoidance, competition, and accommodation. None of these behaviors lead to creative, collaborative solutions.
When you notice conflict you can wait it out to see where it is headed. However, if you see cruelty or intolerance, make sure you put a stop to it quickly. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with heated discussions, make sure the entire team understands that hostility or disrespect simply will not be tolerated.
Define Every Member’s Role in the Group
Even on Agile projects, where teams are comprised of different functional roles, those roles and their responsibilities must be clearly defined. This is important no matter how big or small the group is. Even if there are only two people involved, clear roles will alleviate problems such as duplicated work or missed deadlines. A group won’t function unless everyone involved knows what their job is and is allowed to carry it out.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Think about the skills necessary to complete the project and who is best suited to perform those steps.
- Make sure everyone involved understands the project and all the steps needed to complete it.
- Always clarify your exact responsibilities for the project.
- Consider the other tasks being performed and how they relate to your specific duty.
- Leave the floor open for questions and solutions should they arise throughout the project.
Divide Up the Work
No one appreciates having all the work of their teammates dumped on them so consider how much time each step of the project takes and divide the work accordingly. This can happen if team members get sick, go out on leave, or leave the company.
As part of the project definition, tasks are defined, and assignments are made. Answering these questions is a key part of creating the Work Breakdown Schedule.
- How many hours will a specific task will take?
- How will the added tasks fit into each person’s schedule?
- What else are people responsible for? Do they have too much on their plate?
If you’re a team leader, remember that people won’t necessarily do things exactly as you would have done it, and that’s okay! Just because they do things differently doesn’t make their way wrong.
“None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.” – Mother Teresa
Resist the Urge to Micromanage
The people you’re overseeing were put on your team for a reason. If you’re dealing with people you trust, simply trust them to do their job. While asking for an update is fine, constantly being after them about meeting their deadline is one way to drive them crazy or stage a revolt!
One way you can trust that your team members will complete their assigned tasks is to make sure they are working to their strengths. For every team you work with or in, you should understand the what they love to do and what they do best. When people take on work to improve their weaknesses, it puts additional stress on the team and can put the project in jeopardy. To discover your strengths and the strengths of your team members, download the free Strengths Assessment from Fearless Project Management.
Micromanaging is extremely alienating to members of a team. Unless you can make your team feel comfortable with their assigned jobs, you’ll end up with some really unhappy team members. And that will put your project at risk.
The above tips are four key areas that should be dealt with as soon as possible once the group is formed. Working with a team can be very rewarding when everyone is working together like in a well-oiled machine.