In the same fashion that organizational maturity assessment models measure the sophistication of an organization in carrying out its mission, a team maturity model would measure the collective ability of a project team to deliver projects in terms of meeting specifications, on time and on budget. Primarily, a team maturity model would describe the key attributes of a fully effective project team environment. In addition, the model would categorize these attributes in progressive stages that signify maturity levels. The maturity model can be used for benchmarking among different teams, across divisions of an organization, and across different organizations. Considering the presence or absence of a certain amount of sophistication for these attributes, one can arrive at a ranking of Levels 1 to 5 for the maturity of the project team in executing project management processes. It bears highlighting that a scale of 1 to 5 has been used here in the team maturity model in order to keep the results in line with most maturity models and success structures (Rad and Levin, 2002). The established ranking scale of the maturity model will provide plateaus for the purpose of continuous improvement of project management capabilities for virtual teams. These plateau level indicators are usually based on the assessment of the sophistication of key attributes of the team's behavior. The expectation in establishing these maturity level designations is that higher maturity values will become a source of pride and that lower maturity values will provide incentives for improvement and refinement.
The model described here is the IDEAL model, and the five levels of the models are Initial, Developed, Enhanced, Advanced, and Leader (Figures 5.1 and 5.2). The IDEAL model describes team characteristics in terms of behavioral properties of the team. Naturally, the sophistication of these attributes will be different for different maturity levels. Therefore, the maturity level of the team is related directly, although not necessarily linearly, with the appropriateness of the processes used in the everyday activities of the team. For purposes of clarity, the attributes of the virtual team have been grouped under the following three major categories:
Enterprise attributes: This category addresses the environment in which the virtual team must operate . The implication is that a virtual project, or any other project for that matter, does not thrive, or even survive, in an unfriendly environment. The attributes listed in this category describe the organizational friendliness toward virtual teams, involvement of virtual teams in organizational strategies, and recognition of the virtual team concept by the parent organization.
People attributes: This category addresses the team members ' interrelationships with one another, with a focus on teamwork issues such as trust, collaboration, competency, communication, and conflict.
Things attributes: This category addresses the performance of the team in terms of efficiency, productivity, and deliverables. It includes treatment of topics such as progress monitoring, procedure enhancement, historical data collection, and development of best practices.
There Is Use of Quantitative Data to Conduct Continuous Improvement
The Team Commits to a Project Management Culture and Captures Quantified Performance Data
The Team Implements Successful Project Management Processes
There Is Isolated Implementation of Formalized Project Management Processes among Team Members
The Team Uses Inconsistent Procedures and Lacks Formal Guidelines
This level is called Initial and might also be referred to as ad hoc, basic, or inconsistent. At this level, the team does not have, nor does it use, any standard processes or procedures. The use of proven practices is rare and unexpected, primarily because processes cannot be improved if they cannot be specified, documented, or repeated. Most processes are ad hoc and are reinvented for every project. Processes appear chaotic because managers have no reliable way of estimating the project's scope, schedule, costs, or resources. Projects that are conducted by a Level 1 team tend to lose control of requirements, scope, cost, and schedule. Some project team members make personal sacrifices, such as overtime and lost vacation and holidays, in order to finish projects with satisfactory results. Project deadlines are unreasonable, and the team agrees to them unwittingly or unwillingly. Project recovery often involves sacrificing sound technical practices, thus delivering an abbreviated product or a product that might not meet customer requirements and specifications. Additionally, there is a high likelihood that the recovered project's product will have overruns in the time and cost areas.
Teams that are at this level apply inconsistent work force practices during the team formation and team development stages. As a result, team members generally have poor attitudes and exceptionally low morale , as manifested by the team's high turnover rate. It is evident in casual discussions that most of the team members would prefer to be working someplace else. It is rare for the project manager to even consider dealing with human resource problems, partly because managers lack the tools and training necessary to deal with these problems. The focus is on the things aspects of the project and not the people aspects of the project. Not surprisingly, specific human resource practices are not documented or specified. There are some forms available for some specific processes, but typically there is no guidance in how to use them, so managers instead must invent their own practices. The processes then depend on that specific project manager's personal orientation, experience, and people skills.
If a project team member is successful in some of his or her duties , it is likely that he or she has informally observed , and learned from, other successful project teams. It is also possible that the occasional success is sheer luck. Some team members work harder and more diligently than others, possibly with the same inconsistent results. Improving the competency of personnel is not a top priority item. Competency levels throughout the organization are mismatched, and thus there is a serious shortfall of competencies in some areas. Many practices are conducted without real attention to their purpose or effectiveness. Even if training is provided, it is not customized to impart skills for a particular end result.
A virtual team is ranked at Level 1 if the team's operational emphasis is on individual accomplishments and individual objectives, rather than on team objectives. In such a case, the prevailing view among the team members is that the project might be completed through additional integration of individual contributions, rather than through collective efforts. There is no shared vision among the team members. At this level, miscellaneous project management tools are used sporadically throughout the team during the life of the project. Project managers of a Level 1 virtual team tend to develop their team management skills through on-the-job exposure. On Level 1 teams, quality shortcomings, cost overruns, and schedule delays are common. The attributes of the Level 1 team in the IDEAL model are presented in the following list. Specific characteristics of this level are categorized into enterprise attributes, people attributes, and things attributes.
Some of the team members follow some procedures for some of the success elements, but performance of activities is inconsistent. Action items that are identified may or may not be completed.
At times, team members support the virtual project, but primarily their commitment is to projects located in their on-site environment. Accomplishment of virtual team objectives is not regarded highly by the team members' on-site managers. Consequently, team members tend to work on the virtual project only when absolutely necessary.
Little guidance is available to the virtual team members as to how to best perform their work. Training is not provided in the use of technology for communication and collaboration, nor is training provided in methods of self-motivation and self-management .
Staffing decisions are made on the basis of availability rather than specific expertise. Roles and responsibilities are not clarified.
There is an atmosphere of cynicism and mistrust , with interpersonal attacks common among team members, who undermine each other's contributions. In order to avoid sharing credit, virtual team members might purposely exclude others from routine communications. Team members do not try to remove any obstacles that may be in the way of others, because their focus is not to promote effective performance for others but rather to highlight individual performance. Team members lack knowledge of one another's capabilities.
Team members work independently on the project. Team interaction is infrequent because most of the traditional team meeting functions are inappropriately replaced by e-mail. Typically, group e-mail, in its most impersonal state, is used for status and for one-on-one communication, which in turn fosters singular problem solving.
Confidence in other team members is lacking. With distrust as the norm, any meetings that are held are reactive, as opposed to proactive, with one-sided discussions that lack direction. On-line meetings that are held concentrate on status or an upcoming milestone to conserve time. It is easy for people not to be active team participants .
Conflicts are seen as personal attacks, leading to greater polarization among team members. Conflicts are considered destructive, not constructive. Individual differences can become magnified in areas where possible cultural diversity could facilitate sharing of insights in order to promote innovation.
As a result of a lack of common purpose for the team, individuals are left unguided. Thus, team members perform their technical and cost/schedule duties according to their own personal agendas . Because of the absence of a common mission, opportunities are pursued by individuals rather than by the team as a whole.
At Level 2, there are sporadic uses of best practices. These best practices can sometimes be specified, documented, and repeated. Project team members are able to repeat the successful practices if by chance they can identify those practices that have worked in previous projects. Each project is allowed to establish repeatable practices for itself.
The project manager is in charge of project definition in terms of scope, cost, and schedule. However, with no organizational guidelines, it becomes incumbent on the project manager to take responsibility for managing and developing his or her people. The project manager is responsible for obtaining needed staffing, coordinating commitments, negotiating for resources, managing performance, developing skills, and making compensation recommendations. The project manager accepts personal responsibility for implementing good human resource management practices, such as interviewing effectively, providing feedback, and conducting performance evaluations. There are localized consistencies among project managers throughout the organization.
Individual units or departments in the organization have some autonomy in developing project work balance and determining project skill needs. The project manager focuses on individual performance and individual contributions to improve the unit's overall performance. If there is success, it is achieved only by ensuring that project team members have the appropriate competency for the assigned task. There is a system for regular performance reviews.
This maturity level is characterized by having a process to instill basic discipline into the team's activities. On a Level 2 team, most team members use procedures for some of the project elements. There is some emphasis on effective performance of the team members, which indirectly signals recognition of the fact that performance of the project depends on the collective performance of individual team members as a unified team. There is some acknowledgment of the need for mutual accountability and common commitment. Sometimes, the team establishes charters to govern performance. The manager of the virtual team might have been trained in team building as applicable to virtual teams. The virtual team manager has knowledge of the use of technologies to support the project, and training is provided to team members in the use of the technologies that are selected. In the IDEAL maturity model, this level is known as Developed. It also may be referred to as consistent, abbreviated, or repeatable. Specific characteristics of this level are categorized into enterprise attributes, people attributes, and things attributes as follows .
The project manager secures organizational support for implementing the virtual team concept. This support is announced formally through an organizational policy statement which deals with virtual teams and virtual projects.
There are some policies regarding collection of project data and compiling the data for future use.
Team members establish communications principles.
Team members plan the project work collectively, estimate the time required to accomplish their work packages, and agree to commitments collectively.
Team members have a sense of personal responsibility to support the virtual project. They are motivated to support the project.
Individuals are integrated into virtual teams through standard processes.
Simple and direct communication is used to reduce the risk of misunderstanding. A system of regular communication is established. A system of regular reporting and reviews is established.
There is some effort to provide a smooth transition for the team members as they look ahead to the next project.
The team prepares a somewhat sophisticated team charter. The charter might include some, although not all, of the following items:
Statement of the project's mission
Project commitment statement
Scope and boundaries of the team's work
Project manager and team members
Time frame for the project
Operating procedures designed to instill basic discipline into the team's activities, including administrative activities, methods to handle conflict, procedures for escalating problems and issues to the next managerial level, and communications principles, including standards for availability and responsiveness
Roles and responsibilities of virtual team members are known. Assignments consider skills, expertise, and availability.
A responsibility assignment matrix is prepared and disseminated.
A resource breakdown structure is prepared and disseminated.
A virtual team organization chart is prepared and disseminated.
A virtual team directory is prepared and disseminated.
A common data interchange format is available.
A system for compiling and maintaining virtual team information is established and can be accessed by any team member at any time.
Project lessons learned are documented and include ideas for improving the effectiveness of working on the virtual team.
The team participates in establishing objective performance criteria, against which both team and individual performance can be measured, considering the project plan, the roles and responsibilities of the team members, and the project's schedule, cost, and quality objectives.
The team reviews its progress against its commitments and makes changes as required.
At Level 3, the best practices are integrated into organizational guidelines and policies that are disseminated and used throughout the company. Team members are trained in these best practices. This signals the fact that there is widespread consistency of procedures. Project progress data are routinely collected, analyzed , and archived. There is a culture of common practice, because there is a general trust in those common practices. While it is recognized that the same practice may be conducted differently in different areas to reflect unique circumstances and situations, an organization-wide structure for these practices is developed.
The organization has developed a catalogue of work force competencies, and these categories are used in the formation of work groups that align these competencies with overall business strategic objectives. The focus is on identifying common practices among skills across organizational units in order to identify those that are the most effective. Results are matched with business success in order to build an organizational framework for competencies. Strategic plans and specific action items are prepared for developing specific competencies. This approach enables the organization to accelerate development in areas that are more critical.
At this level, the team and/or the organization has an established career path for project professionals. Because of the organization's focus on best practices, individuals are mentored and coached in terms of their career advancement. Competent people are empowered and given freedom and responsibilities. Business performance data are readily provided and accessible. This maturity level is characterized as one in which the team successfully proves the viability of the use of virtual teams and virtual projects in support of the overall organizational strategic goals. Based on the success of the virtuality of the team, the organization formally recognizes the desirability of virtual project teams for its continued and expanded success. The team members value their association with a virtual team in the same way as they would value working on a collocated team, maybe even more so. The distinguishing characteristic of this level is the emphasis on team discipline and self-management. In this environment, the team routinely sets and/or modifies its collective goals and disseminates feedback on its collective and individual performance. At Level 3, all team members use procedures for the project success elements. In the IDEAL model, this level is named Enhanced. It may also be referred to as integrated, focused, or defined. Building on and including the attributes of a Level 2 team, specific attributes that are characteristics of Level 3 follow.
The virtual team plays a key role in defining and shaping the organizational management strategy.
Managing virtual teams has become a specialty unto itself.
The project manager of the virtual team does not also manage a co-located project team.
The project manager is empowered to acquire the funding necessary to enable virtual teams to enhance their communications.
The project manager has funds available for training virtual project team members and for team-building activities on the virtual team.
Experienced managers of virtual project teams are made available for consultation and mentoring.
Training is provided to assist individuals in working in the virtual environment in terms of communications skills and in the use of selected technologies.
Open communication without fear of reprisal and that supports communications flow in all directions is fostered as part of a documented set of values for work on virtual teams.
The work environment enables individuals to concentrate on work of the virtual project without unnecessary, or inappropriate, distractions from the on-site environment.
Team members share a common sense of purpose.
Expectations between team members are known.
A team vision of the project outcome is created, with specific goals established to achieve this outcome.
Team members agree with the project's goals and objectives, have a common definition of the project's scope, and support the project plan to achieve the goals. They are committed to schedule, cost, and performance goals.
With a common focus on goals and schedules, team members monitor their own personal goals to be aligned with the project's goals. Each person feels ownership for his or her assigned work packages.
Standards for decision making are established. These standards outline when individual decisions can be made, when coordinated decisions are required among different team members, and when consensus decisions are necessary among the entire team.
Team members receive training in self-management and self-motivation. Team members participate in a self-assessment of their own individual personality styles and motivational approaches to enhance communication and understanding.
Team formation is smooth and quick for virtual teams.
Resources are deployed in such a way that each team member can handle specific tasks in a timely manner.
New members join the virtual team in a seamless fashion so that the team can quickly bond. Notwithstanding, if circumstances warrant it, roles among team members shift gracefully.
A participatory culture is established among team members.
Input from team members is obtained during problem-solving and decision-making sessions. Thus, commitments are made in a collaborative fashion.
Open interaction is encouraged with fact-based problem solving.
Team members share information freely .
A team orientation session is held to determine communication technologies and protocols to use.
Common tools (both software applications and hardware platforms) are available for the virtual work.
A communications schedule is established that is flexible and can adjust to changing conditions.
Team members are willing to modify their availability standards to best fit those of the virtual team.
Standards are established for format, language, and nomenclature for project management processes and for technical components .
Common understandings of terms to be used and protocols are established.
Cooperation among team members is the norm. Team performance opportunities are a key priority. There is a deep sense of belonging in terms of being a member of the virtual team.
Team members respect and value the knowledge and experience of their teammates. Problem-solving, administrative, interpersonal, and technical skills are equally valued.
There is a sense of mutual accountability among team members. Team members are accountable for their individual contributions, their collective contributions to the team, and the overall goals and objectives of the project.
Conflicts that do occur are resolved by reference to the team charter. Thus, conflicts are considered to be constructive. Conflicts are seen as a way to generate new ideas and insights and as a way to enhance the favorable relationships that do exist among team members. Any conflicts that cannot be resolved within the team are escalated according to procedures outlined in the team charter.
Team members work to ensure that all views are exchanged and understood. Cultural differences are embraced and understood . Different views are accepted and considered necessary for effective problem solving.
The team undertakes team-building activities to improve effectiveness.
There is recognition of both individual and team accomplishments.
Members of the virtual team feel valued.
Each individual establishes a personal development plan.
Individual performance criteria that complement the team's performance criteria are developed.
The virtual team establishes a plan to satisfy any training needs.
A standard template is available for the virtual team charter, along with a process for the team to develop its specific charter.
This template, and its process, might be scaled or tailored to meet the requirements of a specific project.
Team members review the standard template and establish a team charter collaboratively to define and agree on common procedures for project work.
The charter highlights processes to determine how the team's work is managed, how information is stored and shared, how documents are reviewed, and how problems are detected and resolved.
There are standard virtual-specific templates for requirements definition, stakeholder identification, estimating, scheduling, risk identification, risk analysis, progress monitoring, and change management.
The standard templates and processes designed for the virtual project are reviewed and enhanced periodically based on lessons learned during their use in each project.
The team uses a 360-degree performance evaluation system. The 360-degree system is reviewed and approved by the project manager and sponsor. Results-based evaluations are conducted.
Team and individual performance is measured against objective criteria and is periodically documented.
Upper management provides formal feedback on team and individual performance.
Quantified measurements of team performance are collected and analyzed.
Performance criteria are periodically reviewed to determine if changes are required.
Ways to improve performance are periodically discussed, and improvement actions are taken.
Various components of job performance are periodically discussed and analyzed.
The collection of project data is done systematically and according to prescribed procedures. There is a prioritized list of data that are to be collected and compiled.
At Level 4, organizational performance is viewed in conjunction with project performance. Project performance is analyzed and characterized for a large number of projects. Corrective actions might be prescribed across the organization based on analysis of data that are specific in terms of knowledge areas and project and organizational success factors. The performance assessment is based on quantitative data. Project planning data and project performance data are readily available.
The organization seeks to integrate organizational work force competencies, empower the project teams, and manage performance based on reliable quantitative data. As a result, the organization benefits from the well-suited competencies of individuals. The organization can accurately predict the success outcomes of projects with quantified indicators. Upper management places a heavy reliance on the results produced by people in the organization, who are competent thanks to organizational planning. Project managers empower work groups within individual projects. Consequently, different competency-based processes are integrated into a single multidisciplinary unit. Since delegation and empowerment are widespread, competent people define their own point of coordination.
The success of the team in previous projects provides documented proof that, given a good match between each virtual team member and the corresponding project component, unusually high effectiveness can be predicted for the project. The team is aware of, and encouraged by, the fact that virtual teams are established as the preferred organizational structure for an increasing number of the organization's projects. In the IDEAL model, this level is called the Advanced Level. It may also be referred to as comprehensive or managed. Characteristics of this level beyond those of the previous levels, grouped by enterprise, people, and things attributes, follow.
The virtual team receives full organizational recognition by being listed as a key component of organizational strategy. As such, the organizational vision and mission openly support the operations of the virtual project team.
The project manager and his or her virtual team members are regularly invited to participate in project selection activities and other long-range organizational activities.
The virtual team has the explicit support of the organization in areas such as training and mentoring.
The project manager periodically assesses the overall performance of the virtual project team from a process perspective to assess future needed support.
A position of relationship manager is established on each virtual team.
Team members are able to establish, and change, the environment for their work in the form they believe is most appropriate for the specific project. Clearly defined performance goals motivate the team members to achieve their objectives, because in this environment people are anxious to truly make a difference for the project and the organization.
An atmosphere of trust exists among the virtual team members because their concerns can be shared openly, and their workload can be modified easily. The emphasis is not solely on consensus but on working toward approaches that are most effective in terms of the team's mission.
There is collaborative leadership and shared responsibility among team members of different skills and different levels of technical expertise.
Team members undertake interdependent tasks.
There is a sense of cohesion and cooperation among team members.
Teams take pride in their work.
Team members establish mentoring relationships.
The focus is on learning from and helping one another since everyone believes that individual accountability to the team promotes learning.
Team members model and encourage supportive behavior.
Learning among team members is valued.
On-line interaction is so successful that face-to-face communication is not viewed as a necessity.
A climate of open communication is available, which in turn enhances group problem solving and decision making.
Team members work to ensure that all people participate in discussion forums and status meetings.
Information is shared beyond that which is necessary to do one's job.
The work experience is rewarding and enjoyable for team members on a personal level. Team members want to sustain the relationships they have built with other team members.
All team members monitor the effectiveness and efficacies of their procedures. The performance focus of the team is such that team members, if they note a skill gap, will collectively work with management to determine how best to fill it.
Team members are recognized and rewarded for creativity and innovation.
Team members review processes developed, including task and working relationships, at various intervals throughout the project to enhance the quality of their work. Periodically, reviews are conducted to ensure that all established processes are followed to identify areas in which improvements may be warranted.
Team members openly communicate about ways to enhance performance and provide feedback to others.
At Level 5, the organization has a clear picture of how virtual projects work in all aspects of their performance and the foundation for their success. Improvement actions can be readily identified. Improvements are either modifications of existing procedures or the implementation of entirely new procedures. Carefully collected data are used to isolate problems and to recommend corrective action in a seamless fashion. Change management is a consistent organizational process.
The organization is recognized for its competent people at all levels. The organization empowers those competent people to conduct continuous improvement in their work processes and to propose organizational changes that support those improvements. The organization focuses on continuously improving and aligning personal, work group, and organizational capability.
Differences in work styles and approaches are identified and quantified, as a prelude to encouraging individuals to make continuous improvements to their personal work processes. Thus, considering all of the projects and all of the business innovations, the organization is collectively recognized as one of the best in its class. Individual performance is in line with organizational objectives. Lessons learned are collected, analyzed, disseminated, and easily accessible. Knowledge profiles are prepared and updated on a regular basis in order to highlight the specific expertise of team members. Individuals are encouraged to make constructive suggestions to one another for improvements in overall efficiency. The organization regularly evaluates the latest practices, participates in benchmarking forums and learning communities, and uses widespread performance data to forge future improvements.
The virtual project team delivers results that always meet, and sometimes exceed, customer requirements. Team performance criteria include proven measures to empower team members. There is shared alignment of differences and similarities among team members. Team members view one another as essential for the team's overall success. The organization regards virtual teams as a strategic tool toward its success. Finding the best person for each project and sharing people between projects is streamlined, which in turn improves overall organizational performance. When the team is at this level of maturity, each person develops his or her own personal learning agenda in concert with organizational goals. The project manager openly and actively encourages team members to experiment and practice with new approaches. In the IDEAL model, this level is known as Leader. It may also be referred to as optimizing or adaptive. Building on the attributes of previous maturity levels, additional attributes that characterize this level are listed in the usual three categories.
Virtual teams are recognized as a strategic resource for organizational success.
There is collective acknowledgment of similarities and differences among team members, with a plan developed to take advantage of different contributions to the project.
Team members earn and maintain high levels of trust.
Team members openly share concerns and problems.
Any problems in terms of team dynamics are discussed throughout the project, rather than allowing them to escalate into a major conflict.
Team members do not have hidden agendas.
Team members respect the confidentiality of team issues and concerns.
Team members are expected to take risks, because risks are viewed as opportunities.
Team members work together to plan risk response strategies so that risks do not turn into problems.
Team members enjoy an environment conducive to thinking, sharing, creating, innovating , learning, and community.
Open and honest communication is considered essential for success.
The environment is such that team members derive satisfaction from their work.
The team as a collective entity and team members as individuals promote professional responsibility in their practices.
Team members want to continue the relationships they have built in the virtual team even when the project is complete. Accordingly, opportunities for future collaborative work are developed for the project team.
The team charter is considered a key success ingredient, and its continuous enhancement is emphasized .
Team members regularly conduct continuous evaluations of team operating processes and performance.
All team members conduct continuous improvements on all success elements.
The focus of the team is on continuous improvement of methods to develop both personal as well as team competence.
Individual and team achievements are acknowledged and celebrated throughout the project to increase both individual and team satisfaction. Input is collected on a periodic basis concerning each individual team member's attitude toward work on the virtual team. Suggestions for improvements are provided on a regular basis.
Individuals, and the team as a unit, quickly learn from their experiences.
These inputs are analyzed, and feedback is provided.
Knowledge profiles are established and maintained .
Feedback on enhancement suggestions highlights the results of the analyses and the subsequent actions to be taken.
What is graciously missing from these rankings is the rank of zero, which describes a team that does not have any procedures, and none of its projects are ever completed near the success mark. One hopes that such a team is not encountered very often, at least not as part of an enlightened and forward-looking organization. Notwithstanding, it is possible for a team to merit a ranking of zero on some of the performance attributes. If that turns out to be case, then the first priority would be to resolve the team performance deficiencies in the affected attributes. Hopefully, these emergency activities will be followed by the development of formal processes and specific procedures in order to continually elevate the performance of this team.