How to Create and Maintain a Team Identity

1 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Managing a Project Team

Creating a team identity can help you manage your project. But often, the people you collect to work on your project don’t know one another. You can use the tips here to help your project participants coalesce into a team.

Committing to work with others to achieve a common goal encourages people to overcome problems they may encounter along the way. The following tips can help clarify your team’s purpose and encourage team members to support one another as you work together to achieve it:

  • Clarify team vision and working relationships: As soon as you have a team, work with the team members to develop a project mission that members can understand and support. Give people an opportunity to become familiar with each other’s work styles.

  • Define team procedures: Encourage your team to develop its own work procedures instead of allowing people to use the approaches of their respective functional groups.

  • Clarify each person’s authority: Team members may have to represent their functional areas when making project decisions. Clarify each team member’s level of independent authority to make such decisions, and determine who outside the team can make any decisions that are beyond the purview of the team member.

  • Be aware of and attend to your team’s functioning: Help people establish comfortable and productive interpersonal relationships. Continue to support these relationships throughout your project.

  • Be sure one person is assigned the role of project manager — with overall coordinative responsibilities: The project manager continually reminds team members of the overarching project goals and focuses their attention on how they influence and affect each other’s work.

Team members typically have little or no authority over each other in a matrix environment. Therefore, they perform their project assignments because they choose to, not because they have to. Work with people initially and throughout your project to encourage them to commit to your project’s goals.

The project manager’s authority over team members is frequently limited; for the most part, he must rely on suggestion, encouragement, and persuasion to help team members address issues and accomplish their assignments. Therefore, it’s important that you identify and establish relationships with others who can help you deal with situations that you’re unable to resolve yourself.

Here’s how:

  • Get a champion: Because you most likely don’t have authority over all the people who affect the chances for your project’s success, get an ally who does have that authority — and do so as soon as possible.

  • Ask for and acknowledge your team members’ functional managers’ support: By thanking functional managers for supporting their staff and allowing the staff to honor their project commitments, you’re encouraging those managers to provide similar support for you and others in the future.

Take the following steps upfront and throughout your project to head off potential conflicts and concerns before they arise:

  • Plan in sufficient detail: Work with team members to clearly and concisely define the project work and each person’s specific roles and responsibilities for all activities.

  • Identify and address conflicts promptly: Conflicts frequently arise in a matrix environment, given people’s diverse responsibilities, different styles, and lack of experience working together. Encourage people to identify and discuss conflicts as soon as they arise. Develop systems and procedures to deal with conflicts.

  • Encourage open communication among team members, especially regarding problems and frustrations: Discussing and resolving team issues encourages working relationships that are more enjoyable and productive.

  • Encourage upper management to establish an oversight committee to monitor project performance and to address resource and other conflicts: Project and functional managers must focus on the goals for their respective areas of responsibility. Often, both groups rely on the same pool of people to reach these goals. But these diverse needs can place conflicting demands on people’s time and effort. An upper-management oversight committee can ensure that the needs of the entire organization are considered when addressing these conflicts.

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The Essentials of Managing a Project Team

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