8.6. Forming the Team
You've now laid the groundwork for forming your IT team and should be ready to go. Once you've identified the IT team members, you're ready to officially form your team. As we discussed earlier, you'll need to organize your team. Some of this organization was discussed in Chapter 6 when we discussed how to organize your project. However, we'll briefly review some of those elements and add a bit more detail here. Remember, too, that once you've identified your work breakdown, your team requirements may change.
8.6.1. Team Roster
Creating a team roster may seem like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many times it's overlooked. Create a team roster listing all the relevant information about each team members and distribute it to your team. You may want to list this on a team intranet site or simply distribute it as a text document via e-mail. Whatever you do, make sure you create a roster and distribute it to facilitate team communication. You can download a team roster template to give you a head start.
Once you've formed the project team, you may find there is specific training needed in order for the project to proceed. A good example of this is if you're putting together a hardware and software package for point of sales systems and the system must track sales tax. The sales tax calculation will depend on local, state, and federal tax rules and one or more member of your team may need to be trained in how this works so that your systems will be fully compliant. Gather input from the team as well to make sure you don't overlook important training before the project gets underway. Make sure this training has been reflected in your project budget estimate and include the specific line item costs when you prepare your final project budget, which we'll discuss later in this book. If you're not sure if your team will require training (or how much training), build in contingency funds for training. If the training is triggered by using less experienced team members, you may also use this cost as leverage to get more experienced people on your team. Sometimes the time and cost of training is worth the investment (versus putting more experienced people on the team), sometimes it's not. This might be a point of discussion with the project sponsor, if in doubt.
8.6.3. Processes and Procedures
You should already have defined processes and procedures for your project, including how the team will interact, how often it will meet, what types of status and data reporting is needed, and how performance will be tracked and assessed. These should be discussed with the team and any modifications to procedures should be discussed and finalized. You want to have a fairly stable set of processes and procedures going into your project so you're not changing the rules in the middle of the project. Ensure that all team members understand the processes, and how their performance will be evaluated. When applicable, provide written documentation for reference.
You should make sure that everyone is clear about legal, financial, or regulatory compliance issues. Since the team will soon begin working independently, it's critical that they understand these issues at the outset. It wouldn't help the project or the team to find out later that something was out of compliance. In some cases it results in rework, which adds time and cost to the project and can also reduce quality. In other cases, it could result in serious legal or financial repercussions. Preventing these kinds of lapses is important. Educate the team on these issues prior to starting project work to help everyone stay on track.
8.6.5. Team Meeting (Kick-Off Meeting)
Last, but not least, you should hold a project team meeting for the sole purpose of getting everyone together and on board with the project. Some IT project managers see this as an opportunity to get down to business, but if you can afford the time, you should really allow the first meeting to be more of a meet-and-greet. You should use the first team meeting to introduce everyone on the team (if they are not already acquainted) and give everyone a chance to talk a bit about his or her background and participation on this project. You should also discuss basic team information such as the team roster (how/when you'll distribute it), any team resources such as an intranet site that will be utilized for communication and where team members can find project information moving forward. During the kick-off meeting, you should review the project plan and objectives. Encourage team members to ask questions and also encourage them to read the initial project plan (the plan thus far) and come prepared with questions to a follow up meeting (or submit questions/comments via e-mail). It's important to begin creating a sense of ownership for the project plan as well as to begin to gather team input so the project plan can be as solid as possible before proceeding. Remember, should someone identify a major problem, don't get an attitude. This is the point in your project planning that you want to find problems (if they exist). Encourage and reward that type of input from your new team to create an environment that fosters input, honesty, and good information.
After you've done the "housekeeping" tasks, make sure you allow time for team members to get to know one another. If it's going to be a long project, you may want to schedule subsequent team building activities to get the team working together as a cohesive unit. If doing team-building sounds like sissy work, think again. Many large companies spend millions of dollars each year trying to figure out how to create more productive work teams. Productive teams are worth a small investment and if you're really not comfortable with this, contact a local consultant who specialized in team building and creating highly effective teams. One or two sessions with a team-building consultant can help your team change from a group of highly skilled individuals to a highly functional teamand you might actually enjoy yourself along the way. If you equate team building with a mushy group hug, think again. There are many fascinating and interesting team building sessions that help people learn about themselves and build a cohesive team.
For more information on how to form and manage a highly functional team, refer to the end of Chapter 4 and review the section entitled "Managing High Performance Teams."
8.6.6. Team Technology
If you're using technology to enhance or foster team communication, make sure all team members have access to those resources and know how to use them. Just because someone is technically savvy in one area does not necessarily mean he or she is savvy in other areas. Don't assume team members know how to use technical resources unless it's very clear they do (e-mail, telephone, etc.). If you're using instant messaging, an intranet site, a collaboration software tool, or any other technology team members may not know how to use effectively, make sure you provide training. Most technical people don't like to admit there's something they don't know (or can't figure out), so don't ask for a show of hands to tell you who does and does not know how to use a particular tool. Instead, assume no one knows and provide training for everyone or check in with team members individually.
8.6.7. Managing Performance
After you've formed your team, you'll need to begin managing their project-related performance. You should have some of the processes and procedures already defined, but it's likely you'll need to work with your team to clarify or tune up some of these processes and procedures. Studies repeatedly show that people who are involved with setting their own performance standards are more likely to meet those performance standardsand that doesn't mean setting the bar so low as to be useless. Performance metrics have to be reasonable and achievable, but if members of the team can participate in setting those levels (even if that means giving feedback and modifying preset standards), they're more likely to work hard to achieve them.
You may need to work with team members' direct supervisor, managers, or HR staff to develop acceptable performance measurements that can be used both within the project team and by the person's manager as part of an overall performance evaluation process. In some companies, the PM performs an evaluation as part of the project closeout activities (see Chapter 12).
Finally, you need to think about what you'll do if people fail to perform to standards. There are many reasons for this type of failurefrom not understanding roles and responsibilities to lack of ability to perform required tasks to political maneuvering and laziness. Your job as IT project manager is to shepherd this project along toward successful completion and along the way, you may have to deal with poor performance. These methods should be well defined in advance so you can simply implement your performance management processes and procedures, if needed. It will save you time and lots of aggravation.
Remember that there are essentially two causes of poor performancethe lack of ability and the lack of desire. Your job should be to try to determine where the problem lies. If it's lack of ability, the person may require training or may have to be replaced with someone more capable. If it's lack of desire, you have an entirely different problem on your hands. You can try to get the person to come around, you can talk with the person's manager, or you may have to replace that person as well. Your options as an IT project manager are a bit more limited than if you had formal organizational authority over team members, but the basics remain the same.
8.6.8. Recognition and Rewards
Finding appropriate ways to give recognition and rewards for team members is an important part of forming and managing high performance teams (for a review of managing high performance teams, re-read the end of Chapter 4.) As the leader of the team, an important part of your role is to keep everyone on the team moving forward toward a common goal and that means providing genuine recognition and rewards for project work. Perhaps you've experienced recognition and rewards that are not genuinefor instance when everyone gets the same recognition or reward regardless of contribution. These insincere attempts at recognition and reward usually backfire because the worst performers get recognition they don't deserve and the best performers are lumped in with the worst performers. If you want to find ways to demotivate people, that's your best bet. There are times when rewarding the whole team for a team effort is appropriate, but it should not be the only type of recognition and reward team members receive. However, if you want to motivate the team toward higher achievement, recognition and rewards must match the actual contribution in order to be perceived as genuine.
Recognition can come in many different forms and taking a look at how your company operates and its political environment can give you great ideas for how to provide meaningful recognition. In some companies, sending a global e-mail or memo to the person's manager touting someone's great project performance might be just the way to give them appropriate recognition. In other companies, the best way might be to provide a certificate of achievement; in other companies, it might be a pizza party held in their honor. Whatever you do, make it meaningful to the recipient.
As for rewards, these too come in all shapes and sizes from silly rewards to a free pair of movie tickets to a local theater or a gift certificate to a local restaurant. Some rewards are not monetarysuch as when someone does a great job and earns a spot on a special project team or is assigned a coveted project task. Again, the rewards should match the contribution and they should be awarded in a fair and consistent manager to avoid demotivating your best performers.
At the conclusion of this process, you should have your team members identified and acquired and you should have (or be planning) your first team meeting. Figure 8.2 shows the document that should be developed at the end of this process, the team roster.
Figure 8-2. Team Roster