Hello my friend,

Today I want to speak about very important part of the project management that is called team building. This topic is important not only for project management actually. All types of work (business operations as well) that is done by people implies communication and interaction between them. That’s why the managers have to solve the very same problems.

What does PMBOK say team building?

The model that is described in PMBOK is called Tuckman’s ladder. The main idea of the model is that each team that works together pass five stages in its development. In the linkedin.com I’ve found interesting image that describes this Tuckman’s ladder:

039_pm_01_stages

It’s quite logical that this stages occurs (or least they should occur) one after another. PMBOK in point 9.3.2.3 says the following:

Although it’s common for these stages to occur in order, it’s not uncommon for a team to get stuck in a particular stage or slip to an earlier stage. Projects with team members who worked together in the past may skip a stage.

It means that the process team building might be (and usually it is so) a circle rather than ladder:

039_pm_02_circle

In the same point 9.3.2.3 PMBOK explains, why it’s so:

As an ongoing process, team building is crucial to project success. While team building is essential during the initial stages of a project, it is a never-ending process. Changes in a project environment are inevitable, and to manage them effectively, a continued or a renewed team-building effort should be applied. The project manager should continually monitor team functionality and performance to determine if any actions are needed to prevent or correct various team problems.

Frankly speaking, team management is the most important part of each project. In his book “The Deadline” Tom DeMarco outline this fact by simple formula: “people do projects”. That’s why we have to take care of our teams well. Otherwise there won’t be anyone who can execute the best project plan ever. That’s why you want to build the best team ever.

What is team building about?

Different managers has different opinions regarding this question. Their opinion depends on their management style. Let’s first of all check the PMBOK (point 9.3.2.3):

Team-building activities can vary from a 5-minute agenda item in a status review meeting to an off-site, professionally facilitated experience designed to improve interpersonal relationships. The objective of team-building activities is to help individual team members work together effectively.

The key point is marked with the bold. Such team-building activities must increase the effectiveness of the team work.

In my opinion the best team-building activity is the work itself. To be more precise I’ll rephrase it as “the best team-building activity is the problem solving by team together”. The most important factor for each team is mutual respect and help. The solely way to earn respect of other colleagues is to work together with them, show your knowledge and skills and share it with them. The project manager must also be involved in this process, because she/he is inevitable part of the team. The project manager does his part of work in the project and the team must understand that. It’s very often that team members can think about project manager as a one, who only delegates the work to other and doesn’t do anything. Delegation is good and right approach for each manger (including project manager), but it doesn’t mean that the project manager sleeps at work and get money for nothing.

039_pm_03_canoe

http://www.pccanoekayak.ca/images/WarCanoe.jpg

That’s why the common solving of the problems, especially complex one, provides possibility for the team to act together outlining the strengths of each and points of improvements. And after the difficult problem is solved (or complex task is done) together by team members, they always have a good mood and feeling that together they can achieve everything.

Just a couple of remarks regarding special activities that are called team-buildings and are held somewhere outdoors with some sports, barbeques and drinks. It’s cool, but from my experience they don’t have nothing in common with improvement of team’s efficiency. Employees have a good time together, speak and relax. But it doesn’t mean that after it they’ll start working better together. In my opinion such activities are good at the end of the project, when the work is done, people know each other good and they have common topics to discuss.

Lessons learned

Just recently I was on such kind of outdoor event. For me it was a pleasure to meet the team members, whom I’m working with, as I’m based in another country and work as virtual team member. In such cases face-to-faces meeting is really valuable. So there are certain cases, where such activities are necessary. On the other hand this activity made no impact of our common work, because we are already working together good. So you need always understand, what is the real goal and desired result from such team-building activities.

Conclusion

Team building is one of the most crucial processes in project management, and it has direct impact on how you project will be done (if it will be done in overall). Treat the team, love it and be proud of them. Give them real challenges that makes them to work hard and you will see, how they achieve it together. Take care and good bye.

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BR,

Anton Karneliuk