The development team was ready to work on the business-to-business process. This was the time for joint efforts between CSM and Buslog. A virtual combined project team is formed. The CSM project team consisted of Uma, Sanjay, Chris, and two developers. The Buslog project team included Cecil, the project manager, Bev Oswald, and three developers.
Buslog's developers were in Germany and its business analysts were in Florida. The time zones varied considerably, and it became a nightmare for communications. Uma took the lead in developing a communications plan to make this virtual team work. Since this was a short-term project, at the end of every working day each member sent a status report to all the members of the team. Every week a videoconference took place. E-mail was the primary mode of communication. This process was viewed as a project within a project since it had a separate project plan and schedule. Uma led both teams. Since the main project was in the executing phase, Uma had more free time and she could provide more involvement in this combined project.
Uma saw a problem, and, based on her experience, she developed a solution. She asked the team to try this process and they all saw its value. During the implementing stage she needed to be seen as a helpful, creative, and effective resource. It appears she successfully played these roles in this situation.
Leading teams involves three major areas in which effective project leaders need to display knowledge, skills, and commitments. They need to (1) understand how project teams develop and evolve, (2) facilitate project team progress, and (3) role-model effective behavior.
Classic team development literature describes forming, storming, norming, and performing as the four developmental stages teams can be expected to go through.1 Project teams also experience a fifth stage: adjourning, at which time the teams complete their project work. (Chapter 5 covers the adjourning, or closing, stage.)
In executing the work of a project, all participants—senior project leaders, junior project leaders, hands-on project workers, and other stakeholders—can be considered part of the project team. Most team suggestions are directed toward small teams of hands-on workers who are often working together full-time. In many project situations, however, some of the essential participants are working only very part-time on a project. Additionally, some have heavier work involvement at different stages of the project's lifecycle. For example, senior project leadership will likely have a much heavier load very early in the project, junior project leadership's heavy load will start during planning, and hands-on workers' heavy load will be during project executing. The teamwork implication arising from this work pattern is that often those whose work involvement started much earlier are at a more advanced stage in the team development cycle than those who are newer to the project. Project leaders need to be able to deal with this disparity.
To be effective, project leaders need to understand the dynamics of each stage of team development. As teams are forming, project leaders will help team members develop commitment and trust with their teammates, leaders, and other project stakeholders. As teams enter into storming, it is often because of diversity in values, experiences, beliefs, personality, etc., on the part of some of the project team.
Project leaders need to act as facilitators. There are times when a project leader must impose her will to get things done in a hurry, but as often as possible, leading should be performed in a facilitating style. As she tries to lead in a facilitating style, a project leader should keep in mind:
Share leadership when possible. It helps team members develop, gives each more of a sense of project ownership, and often allows much more rapid completion of project work.
Assess project team strengths and weaknesses to facilitate growth. The Project Leadership Assessment: Team in Appendix C can be used for this assessment.
In addition to helping individuals reach their potential, help teams reach their collective potential. If a project leader is effective in this regard, the team will move quickly through the early stages of team development and spend more of their time as a highly effective performing team. Also, when setbacks occur, the project team will retrace its steps through team development more quickly.
Encourage team self-management by continuing to have the project team use the operating methods and communications plan they developed during project planning and the charter they developed during project initiating. If they use these documents, the team should not have to appeal to their leaders too often for guidance.
Remove obstacles that are beyond the authority of the teams to remove themselves. In this sense, project leaders help manage the boundaries between the project team and all others.
A third major component of leading project teams is for leaders to serve as role models. If teams are to be effective, individual members of the teams need to behave in certain ways that can be enhanced by the team leaders' example. Some of these include:
Strive for interpersonal effectiveness first in oneself and then in others. People are much more likely to exert the extra effort required to excel if they see their leaders doing so.
Strive to establish trust, integrity, and reciprocity with everyone. This often requires extra effort, but is well worth it.
Seek help when needed. We all need help in performing our work on occasion, but some project leaders may feel it is a sign of weakness to ask for help. On the contrary, not asking for help when necessary is a sign of immaturity that will not only diminish one's personal performance but will jeopardize the entire project. All project participants need to develop an understanding of when to ask for help and when to just get the job done themselves.
A Project Leader Needs to:
Accept the need for sometimes large, diverse, changing, or virtual project teams
Have the courage to lead in a facilitating manner guided by the project charter, operating methods, and communications plan
Exercise the wisdom to understand when to intervene and when to let the team struggle.