Why do we need team development?
Good cooperation in the "project team is crucial for the success of any project.
When a new group comes together as a team, when an existing team is starting on a new task or new people join the group, the members must first become a 'team'. Autonomy, trust, common goals and accepted norms and values need to develop so that cooperation becomes possible. It is a central task of the "project leadership to enable and support this process.
However, team building is needed not only in the initial phase but is an ongoing task: for whenever a group of people work together, they do so both on factual and personal levels. Interpersonal relationships - both difficult and harmonious ones - always have an impact on the quality of the work to be accomplished. It is therefore the management's responsibility to identify and address problems and to facilitate dealing with them, but also to recognize and acknowledge the untapped potential of a team.
Conditions for successful teamwork
- The team members know each other: They know each other's strengths, work preferences and attitudes. This kind of awareness of each other generates mutual understanding of different points of view and of different ways of working. The overall goal is to use these differences for the benefit of the project.
- The team has common goals: If all the team members agree on the goals they want to achieve together, the nature of their collaboration becomes clearer. However, consensus is never permanent, but must be sought and produced again and again.
- Cooperation is based on mutual trust: trust can emerge only by working together. In the long term trust is essential for tackling and solving conflicts.
- The roles are clearly and sensibly distributed: All team members know and accept their roles and functions and those of other team members. These can be either formal roles (chair, record keeping, etc.) or informal roles (doer, observer, mediator, etc.).
- Conflicts are handled constructively: the constructive management of conflicts is critical to the team's success. It is an occasion to detect faults and to correct them. A constructive conflict culture requires that the team members know and trust one another.
- The project leader ensures that the above conditions are met. He/she actively involves the team members in these processes and may also delegate tasks to them.
- Heerkens, Gary R. (2007). Project Management. 24 steps to help you master any project. The McGraw-Hill Mighty Manager’s Handbooks. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Why you would disregard these aspects
- No need: The project team works smoothly. You assume that the project staff are properly qualified and that no special measures are required.
- No time: You are overwhelmed with work and with the best of intentions, have neither the time nor the energy to deal with the dynamics of the team.
- No money: You have not included anything in your budget for the development of the team and you have no funds for team activities or for team supervision.
- No know- how: Although you may notice problems in the team, you do not know how to react. You are overwhelmed by the situation. Possibly, some team members are putting up resistance to team development.
- No interest: You are not interested in processes of group dynamics. You are convinced that all will be well if people just do their job competently.
What you have to gain
- Working together in a well functioning team is more enjoyable and worthwhile for this reason alone.
- A team that works together with pleasure is also more stable, more efficient and provides better results than a group of individual fighters. It operates more creatively, uses synergies and offers mutual support and can therefore cope better with challenges.
What you can actually do
- Plan enough time for team development, especially in the beginning but also afterwards.
- Reflect on the teamwork periodically as a team. Address potential conflicts openly and find solutions together.
- Initiate and support joint activities that go beyond the project work. Celebrate together when key milestones in the project are achieved.
- If needed, call in external specialists to support the team development process and/or assist in the resolution of conflicts (e.g. team supervision). You could also seek advice from colleagues (for technical questions).
Questions for critical reflection
- Can the individual team members fully use their potential? And is each team member aware of the particular strengths of the others?
- Do they enjoy working together as a team? Or are there possibly some elements that dampen the enthusiasm for collaborative teamwork?
- Is the atmosphere in the team such that individual problems can be aired and conflicts discussed?