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Strategies for Building Effective Teamwork

written by: Tara Duggan • edited by: Ronda Bowen • updated: 7/15/2011

Complex projects require the expertise of specially trained personnel to achieve results. Without coordinated teamwork, projects fail. It's up to the project manager to create a positive working environment. Ensure the success of your team members by providing training, support and guidance.

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    Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept One individual can’t do all the work. Building a successful team involves identifying the tasks required to complete the project, allocating the appropriate resources and ensuring that work flows seamlessly from one process to the next. When team members clash over strategy or technique, productivity suffers. Poor communication, conflicting metrics and disjointed administration contribute to project delays and cost overruns. Without teamwork and collaboration, employees fail. Benefits include such reduced costs, increased quality, increased employee involvement, reduced conflict, reduced absenteeism and better adaptability and flexibility in the organization.

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    Project Management Strategies for Ensuring Effective Teamwork

    1. Successful project managers match project tasks with qualified resources. By allocating resources effectively across all projects, company leaders ensure that work gets done at the lowest possible cost. Experienced project managers first produce a comprehensive project plan that outlines the project’s requirements. They analyze each task and identify the skills and experience required to complete each task. By clearly defining the team members’ roles and responsibilities, the project manager ensures each person knows what to do and when to do it. When each resource fully understands how to accomplish his task, high quality products and services are typically the result. Team members take more ownership and pride in their work when they have tools, resources and motivation to achieve the ultimate goal.
    2. Effective project managers inspire their team members to keep them focused and committed to achieving the company’s goals and objectives. By defining the scope of work clearly, setting performance goals and establishing a meaningful system of reward and punishment, the project manager creates a productive environment that suits the needs of the project team. An effective project manager assesses her own motivational skills. She establishes techniques to provide challenging work to the teams, set realistic goals, understand motives and provide rewards. When faced with team performance issues, she analyzes the situation to determine why teamwork suffers. Lack of resources, appropriate direction, enough time to complete the task and skills often are to blame. Additionally, when employees feel powerless to impact change or interpret leadership as unfair, they lack the incentive to perform at a higher level. By inspiring and motivating the workforce with fair, consistent treatment, effective leaders ensure employee loyalty and improve morale. Without a clear vision, team members become disillusioned and seek jobs elsewhere.
    3. Team members required specific skills and knowledge to complete project tasks on time. They have different levels of experience. By providing opportunities to develop technical, professional and personal effectiveness skills, project managers ensure team readiness to tackle challenges as they arise. Experts train less experienced employees to ensure coverage during vacations, sickness or other absences. Additionally, providing teams with opportunities to practice working together in team building exercises, such as games or simulations, helps the team bond and build better working relationships. By offering team members to the opportunity to participate in role-playing exercises, the project manager gives the team a chance to practice communicating more effectively with each other and also with sponsors and stakeholders. Teams with members from multiple countries and ethnic backgrounds benefit from chances to acknowledge both their differences and similarities in non-work settings. Then, they can return to the job and perform more cohesively.
    4. Effective team communication ensures that all team members have the information they need to complete project work. The project manager typically conducts weekly status reviews, brainstorming sessions to solve problems and other meetings to ensure that all personnel stay informed and focused on project goals. Sending email, creating documents and maintaining up-to-date policies and procedures manuals helps to ensure that the project manager and the team can detect problems early, avoid misunderstandings and troubleshoot issues so the team can achieve its goals with minimal disruption. Maintaining a website of project information ensures that team members always know where to go to get the latest details, such as the schedule and requirements. When project team members don't share information, they run the risk of not satisfying the project requirements, causing unnecessary conflicts or needing to redo project work. Effective teams work together to analyze project processes and commit to improving quality at every step of the way, for everyone's benefit.
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    Summary

    Effective teamwork enables teams to produce high quality products and services at the lowest possible cost with the least disruption and the highest rates of employee satisfaction. When teams function smoothly, all team members have access to the same information and work together to achieve the same goals. Teams members get evaluated on the same criteria and have the same opportunties to pursue career development and contribute to process improvements. Everyone wins. This doesn't mean that the projects are without challenges. In fact, when teams confront a problem together they typically bond more closely and feel a strong sense of commitment and belonging. Effective project managers recognize that coordination enables collaboration. This ensures continuing success for everyone on the team.

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    References and Image Credit

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons - lumaxart

    West, Michael A.. Effective teamwork: practical lessons from organizational research. 2nd ed. Malden, MA: BPS Blackwell, 2004.



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