A paper presented to the Project Management Symposium on PM: Project Manager Role Evolution, Rome, Italy, 2004.

Updated 7/3/04

"PMI" and "PMBOK" are the registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute.
Published here September 2004.

PART 2 | Introduction | Individual Capabilities in Project Management
U.S. Government Project Management Certification Initiatives
Project Teams | The "Profession" of Project Management | PART 4

Project Teams

Leading practitioners on the front edge of the state of the art in project management today recognize the importance of achieving effective teamwork on each of their projects. The human dimension of project management is now the subject of numerous books and articles and training courses. To have an effective project team, as distinct from simply a group of people working on loosely related tasks, several conditions are necessary:

  • Identification of the project team members and definition of the role and responsibilities of each.
  • Clearly stated and understood project objectives.
  • An achievable project plan and schedule.
  • Reasonable rules (procedures regarding information flow, communication, team meetings, escalation of conflicts, and the like).
  • Leadership by the project manager.

If any of these conditions are not present it will be difficult to achieve effective teamwork.

Truly effective teams strive to achieve the project objectives and simultaneously satisfy all the major stakeholders in the project. Project stakeholders include all those persons who have a stake (a vested interest, responsibility, or decision power) in the project and its results. Advanced practitioners think about good performance and successful achievement along two dimensions: the hard/soft dimension and the acceptable/excellent dimension. The hard/soft dimension refers to two different kinds of criteria of performance, and the acceptable/excellent dimension refers to two different standards of performance.

"The hard/soft dimension concerns the tangible and intangible aspects of performance. Hard criteria tend to be measurable, the most frequent being to do with time, cost, resources and technical standards. Soft criteria on the other hand are more subjective and difficult to measure. Yet they are clearly used frequently in evaluating performance. They are more about 'how' the task was accomplished, the attitudes, skills and behavior demonstrated by the team and its members…. In setting success criteria ordinary teams tend to concentrate on hard criteria only and ask questions such as, 'How many, how much and when?'"

"Super teams do all this too (and mostly more punctiliously) but add another dimension. They also draw out clients' and sponsors' more subtle expectations, those to do with ways of working and the relationships with the client, to attitudes adopted on such things as quality, reliability and attention to detail. These are all factors that are crucial to a client's ultimate satisfaction. Equally these soft criteria are explored, clarified and agreed with the sponsor, and service departments…."

"The acceptable/excellent dimension on the other hand concerns standards of performance. And it is around this dimension that the whole Super team idea was originally crystallized. In a world where the best is no longer good enough, the frontiers of performance are always being stretched. 'The best can always be bettered' could almost be the Super team motto."

"We find many teams who think that their performance is good, but who in fact are underperforming. They may be averagely good when compared with those other teams they see. Their performance is acceptable but in no way outstanding…. Super teams strive to be different, and achieve just a little bit more than the competition. They are constantly looking for ways to do things better, constantly testing their assumptions about what is achievable and searching for ways to overcome any problems that lie in the path " (Hastings et al 1987 pp 35-37).

To achieve effective teamwork, today's chief executive officers must demand that:

  1. The importance of the project team concept is conveyed to all contributors to every project in the organization.
  2. Every project team member understands:
    1. The project objectives,
    2. The project plan and schedule, and
    3. The rules to be followed in the project management life cycle process, including issue and conflict escalation procedures.
  3. Every project manager receives adequate leadership, conflict resolution, and commitment building training (Archibald 2003, p 144).
U.S. Government Project Management Certification Initiatives  U.S. Government Project Management Certification Initiatives

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