Increase project team effectiveness

step-by-step

Abstract

The adage that Project Management is both Science and Art is true. Project manager (PM) effectiveness hinges on the “right” combination of experience, knowledge, leadership, and soft skills. Team effectiveness is an outgrowth of PM effectiveness. How well a PM creates and develops his team, and leads the project to successful execution, directly relates to this “right” combination.

Prior to the merger with Duke Energy in August 2012, Progress Energy (PGN) had a 150-member PM career path handling projects from IT implementations to mega-construction. Post merger, leveraging the lessons learned from the Progress Energy experience is a Duke Project Management Center of Excellence (PMCoE) goal. This presentation will share these lessons and how they are being currently applied to “new” Duke PMCoE training and development plans to enable continuous improvement in team effectiveness and individual excellence.

Introduction

When a group of project managers get together, the questions, “What project are you working on?” or “How is that team of yours working out?” often generate subtle or not-so-subtle comments, depending on how the project is going. When things are going well, the sponsor and/or the team will typically garner all the credit. The project manager usually gets credit when the project is not going well. Why is this? If success is often seen as a team effort and failure the result of an individual, then what is the one thing that can be done to produce more successful projects? The answer: Create more effective teams.

This paper will provide basic concepts to build a case for Increasing Team Effectiveness, Step by Step. We will first identify an organization's responsibilities (Step 1). If an organization is funding projects, there is a level of responsibility that we can assume the company will take to move toward effective teams and successful projects. Often, projects are set up to fail because the vision at the top of the project is weak—which, in turn, is the result of the vision at the top of the organization being even weaker. As with the critical nature of properly defining scope, properly defining the vision and objectives for the organization and structuring it so that project teams succeed is the first step.

Next, we will identify the project manager's responsibilities (Step 2) to increase his or her team's effectiveness. We are project “managers”; inherent in the title is a leadership and management responsibility and role. Identifying and providing a means for the PM to build skills and abilities supports both the PM and the organization in structuring training and development and a career path,.

And finally, we will identify responsibilities that each team member (Step 3) has as part of the successful project team. It is stated in our industry that, people do projects; projects are planned and executed by a team of people not a set of methodologies. Understanding and operating within the methods is critical to the overall team system. However, applying the methods in a team-like fashion is more critical to success. When a team member accepts the position on the team, that individual accepts specific responsibilities. When the project manager addresses team responsibilities, immediately and consistently we have seen individuals and then teams move toward cohesiveness and effectiveness.

Increasing Team Effectiveness: Step by Step assumes the entire organization will be involved in the effort. Step 1 assumes the organization's management will take the lead in setting a vision and creating a standardized approach to project management so that project team members can know what is expected of them. Step 2 assumes project managers will have training, development, and leadership goals so that they drive toward leading and developing their teams. Step 3 assumes all team members understand that their effectiveness matters and they are expected to be engaged and to perform using their expertise.

In building the case and identifying responsibilities, both the science and art of project management are considered. The gap, in our case, was not the science but the art. Companies tend to be comfortable with sending promising project managers to PMP boot camps and mechanics training. Companies and individuals, in general, are less comfortable with providing the less tangible support of the art—leadership, communications, team training.

Why Improve Team Effectiveness?

People Do Projects

Ultimately, improving team effectiveness will improve project success. “Developing an integrated team…is the single most important project management practice,” Edward Merrow, Industrial Megaprojects, author and project manager, states when describing setting up a team on a megaproject (Merrow, 2011, pp.168-169). Because people do the project work, they conceive of, design, develop, prepare, construct, test, and close out the project; we assume they function within the methods and processes with which well-trained project managers function.

However, reality shows us that individual project team members are often assigned to multiple projects and other non-project work. Or, if assigned to a single project, they understand their roles but become disengaged when not fully utilized. In addition, sometimes neither team members nor the PM chooses the project on which they work. In many cases, individuals are assigned based on resource availability and not skills or expertise. So what we typically do is create a project team by default of whoever is available and then hinge the success of the project and the team on the PM. Developing the team is often forgotten.

“I Have the Opportunity to Do My Best Every Day”

If the single most important factor to project success is an integrated, fully capable, and effective team, then why are we not focusing more effort, training, and skills toward developing the effective team? Effectiveness defined is “causing a result, especially the desired or intended result” (Encarta Dictionary). Effectiveness within the business environment is:

“the degree to which objectives are achieved and the extent to which targeted problems are solved. In contrast to efficiency, effectiveness is determined without reference to costs and, whereas efficiency means “doing the thing right,” effectiveness means “doing the right thing” (BusinessDictionary.com).

“Causing a result, especially the desired result” is within a project manager's and organization's skills and work capabilities. “The degree to which objectives are achieved” aligns with completing scope, schedule, and cost as planned. If we include within the meaning of effectiveness “doing the right thing,” and the team is held to that accountability, then team members should be developed to work to their fullest. Are we “causing desired results” within the creation and leading of our teams?

According to Gallup, the majority of people at work are not engaged the majority of the time. According to Gallup research, more than 10 million people worldwide have been surveyed on the topic of employee engagement, of which only one third agree with the phrase: “At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day” (Rath, 2009, pp. ii - iv). The point of the research is those who do not get to focus on what they do best results in staggering costs (losses) to the company…and to projects. From the opposite perspective, the people who do get to do what they do best every day are fully engaged in their jobs and therefore “doing the right thing”…and, by working toward effectiveness, the thing right.

Effectiveness Moves toward Efficient

If we create teams with the intent on being effective, ultimately the team becomes efficient because they are “doing the right thing” as well as “doing the thing right.” If teams are working toward effectiveness and held accountable for project success, and if team members are able to do what they do best every day, doing more of it repeatedly becomes the goal. This moves the team toward efficient workings of each task within the WBS and schedule—striving for not just on time but on time cost effectively and efficiently. Effectiveness coupled with efficiencies further builds the case for the organization, the team, and the project manager to establish vision, mission, objectives, goals, and metrics to illustrate project needs and successes. Engaging the organization, project managers, and team members in increasing effectiveness will take investing in the science and art of project management.

Science of Project Management

According to PMI®, there are Five Process Groups and Nine Knowledge Areas through which, in general, successful project management typically flows (PMI®, 2008a). For the purposes of this paper, understanding and applying the in-flows, out-flows, dependencies, and barriers within these processes and knowledge areas is the Science of Project Management. The project management community is familiar with these groups and areas to varying degrees. Theoretically, if the leader and the team are minimally familiar with and are applying the five process groups and nine knowledge areas, a minimum level of success can be achieved: the higher the functioning of the PM and team, the higher the probability of project success. Developing the science of project management is a logical step.

PMI® and the industry provide certifications, training, and experiential opportunities allowing an individual to remain on the leading edge of project management (PMI, 2012). Applying effective scoping, WBS development, scheduling, risk assessments and planning, quality assurance and controls, and cost and estimating analysis to projects improves the predictability and consistency of success. The level of expertise that each team member brings within his or her subject area also increases the predictability and consistency factors. Incorporate re-occurring team successes by providing multiple opportunities for the same individuals to work together as a team. Investing in improving science skills of project managers and team members, theoretically, will improve the effectiveness of the team.

Ideally, project managers begin their careers by working on small projects (few deliverables, few interdependencies, few team members, etc.). They learn the science of project management on low risk projects. As a new PM becomes seasoned, the need to improve and excel in the art of project management becomes apparent. In order to begin stepping up into larger, riskier projects (more deliverables, more interdependencies, more team members, etc.) the project manager should prove capable of higher effectiveness and better ability to handle the complexities of teams (remember: People do Projects). Effective PMs apply the Science and hone the Art of Project Management.

Art of Project Management

The complexity of projects increases with the number of interactions with people or work groups. The larger the project (cost, schedule, number of contracts, number of deliverables), the larger the team and the increased risk potential due to the multiple factors the project entails. The Science of Project Management is the crucial foundation; the Art of Project Management then becomes the bricks and mortar.

The Art of Project Management requires development and refining of interpersonal skills, political savvy, self-evaluation and adjustment. Providing expert, credible leadership for the team will establish a solid structure for effectiveness. At every phase of the project and within each of the competency areas, the team and the PM will have additional opportunities to apply motivation techniques, conflict management, communication management, financial and business acumen, delegation, socializing of concepts or changes, and accountability and governance applications within the total project space. The Art of Project Management is the ability to dance artfully and skillfully within the parameters the science offers, and within the space the project requires—skillful project management often requires investing in developing the soft skills of project management teams.

Each organization has a culture that partially defines the space within which the project works; each project has a unique, temporary structure and framework that it establishes within the organizational culture (PMI, 2008a, p. 14). Assessing and defining cultural expectations is difficult but highly valued when constructing a means to improve team effectiveness. Identifying leadership skills and the business acumen expected from the organization, as well as from project managers, is a means to begin the assessment. Conducting an assessment of the soft skills and the technical skills of project management will provide a broad look at gaps and provide input for the business case (PMI®, 2008b, p. 7).

Step 1 - Identify Organizational Responsibilities

Set the Vision, Create the Mission

It has been said, “Where there is no vision, the people will perish” (M2 Communications, 2010). The organization that expects effectiveness or excellence needs to provide the vision. A vision and mission will be the focal point to which all project objectives point. A foundational element to creating and increasing effectiveness is having a strong vision around to which the project manager and team can align.

A project manager who is also the owner, sponsor, and primary stakeholder could create and set the vision for a small, non-complex project. This, however, is not the nature of the majority of projects and organizations in today's business world. The majority of us function within corporations of varying size, and within project management organizations of varying complexity, managing multiple projects of varying size and complexity. Most of us start a project with the intent to finish successfully: on time, on budget, within the defined scope, navigating the risks and assuring the quality agreed upon. Most do not start a project saying, ‘How can I screw this up?’ So, what sends so many projects down the path of mediocrity, or worse, failure? Simply stated, we propose it is a lack of “vision” from the organization, department, or sponsor. Thus, the first step in increasing project team effectiveness is for the organization to set the overall vision for project success.

Tie the Vision to Project Management Effectiveness

The question of “whose responsibility is this anyway” often arises when discussing vision. As the leadership reviews mishaps that spur discussions of project management effectiveness, the concept of roles and responsibilities becomes crucial. Initially, PGN understood that project management was being conducted throughout the company; it wasn't clear how effective the processes and or the skills were throughout. We conducted an OPM3® Assessment to provide a baseline (PMI®, 2008b, p. 19). Once we understood more about the maturity of the organization and identified the gaps and improvement plan, the path to gaining effectiveness was clearer. The result was a vision and mission that tied the organization and the individual back to project effectiveness (Exhibit 1).

PMCoE Vision & Mission Statement

Exhibit 1 – PMCoE Vision & Mission Statement.

Tie the Vision to Leadership in Project Management

When the PMCoE was being created, management knew there were certain skills that were going to be needed for future work. Assessments indicated that leadership was the key skill. PGN's vision and mission was tied to leadership through the mention of a standardized approach, training, and qualification and “enabling the Company…to be more Flexible…while reducing Risk, Complexity, and Redundancy.” This delivered the message that management understands there is a level of flexibility and cost effectiveness that we have achieved but we would like to be “more.” And management understands that there is a level of risk and complexity that all project managers deal with and that we would like to work together to “reduce.” Create a vision and mission that ties to leadership in project management expectation (Exhibit 1).

Create Accountability – Standardized Approach

With a sound vision and mission in place, a standardized approach to accomplish this work was developed. The sponsoring executive gained commitment from peers, developed a steering committee, and assigned a small team (three full-time employees) to develop the PMCoE. An overall framework or a standard delivery system for how the organization will function within project management was created (Exhibit 2). From that framework, all other standards, guidelines, tools, templates, and career path were developed (Josey & England, 2009). Just as vision and mission drive to a single focus, the framework further describes the path. The PMCoE utilized the standard PMI® processes and knowledge areas as a foundation for developing the framework as it should apply to PGN utility projects (PMI, 2008, pp. 15-33).

PMCoE Project Delivery System

Exhibit 2 – PMCoE Project Delivery System

The size of the company, number of departments, total dollar impact of projects to company, project team structure, and number and breadth of projects and programs should all be considered when determining the level of detail provided in the standards. The PMCoE created two working groups with representatives from throughout the project business units to work on the two key portions of the delivery system: Standards-Governance and Training-Education. These working groups developed twenty procedures for the project management community to apply to project work. The expectation was to create standards that set minimum expectations, were scalable, and drove consistency at the right level throughout the enterprise. Once the enterprise standards were completed and approved, each organization conducting project work created their detailed implementation standards driving accountability to the project manager and team level.

Link Staffing, Training, and Goals to Project Team Effectiveness

Just as the delivery system drove the development of standards, we also worked to link team effectiveness to the staffing, training, and business unit goals. The framework aligned the level of expertise and the number of resources needed for projects. The delivery system was used to identify the appropriate level of training for the expertise required. It also led to the development of individual project effectiveness goals and metrics (Exhibit 2). Each department agreed that a consistent means for identifying resource (PM) needs was necessary to gain effectiveness. The project ranking process and tool was this means (Exhibit 2). The tool was critical in understanding the portfolio of work each department owned, which supported staffing, accountability goals, funding levels, and training needs. The ranking tool identified and supported the need for a career path.

Step 2 - Identify Project Manager Responsibilities

Create Career Path

The Training-Education Working Group was initially tasked with the training and educating of project managers— yet each department did project management differently, so they all had different understandings of “what is a project manager.” Before training and education could be developed, it was agreed a career path was required. The project ranking tool provided a means to look at the level of complexity and size of projects that each organization supported (Exhibit 3). The PM assigned to the work must have experience, education, training, and certifications to support their management of that project rank.

Project Management Career Path

Exhibit 3 – Project Management Career Path

With Career Path and Project Profile Matrix (project ranking tool) as a guideline, the working group identified the basic skill sets each department required for existing work (Exhibit 4). The working group then similarly identified what were the basic skills missing from the department's ability to manage existing work effectively. With this information we were able to identify training needs and expectations.

Career Path by Department

Exhibit 4 – Career Path by Department

Minimum requirements for training were established. All requirements were based on the standards and how they applied to the rank of the project. A career path member was required to attend training on the standards by a specific date of placement into the career path. A qualification card (Exhibit 5) and a hierarchy of enterprise policies and standards (Exhibit 6) were developed in order to assist the departments in understanding the required level of training, governance, and oversight. This structure was established by the PMCoE in order to be able to provide clear expectations to the PMs within the career path. Thus, a new PM III would know exactly what is expected as a PM III.

The PMCoE created all the training objectives and modules each PM was expected to complete. Training was scheduled and communicated. All career path members were expected to attend the initial training. This expectation was set so that members in each career path were consistently trained and a community of practice was established. Hands-on training also assured that all PMs touched and used the standards, tools and templates. Once the initial training on all the standards was completed, career path members were able to begin focusing on their individual responsibilities. The standards training supported the Science of Project Management; the qualification card identified need for developing the Art of Project Management (Exhibit 5).

PM Qualification Card

Exhibit 5 – PM Qualification Card

Governance Hierarchy

Exhibit 6 – Governance Hierarchy

Improve PM Skills by Tying Skills to Objectives

When the expectations are clear and the road map is established, individuals can be engaged and empowered to do what they do best. Each project management department worked to include objectives that drove effective project management, following the PMCoE standards and aligning with the Governance, Oversight, Support, and Performance (GOSP) expectations written into each standard. These GOSP expectations are easily aligned with specific project metrics and therefore drive accountability toward skills refinement and increased effectiveness.

Develop Plan of Excellence for PM

By creating a qualification or development planning card for the career path, members are able to work with their supervisors and develop their plan to increase their effectiveness as leaders of teams. Each PM is expected to be current on all Enterprise policies and PMCoE Standards. They are also expected to gain training in leadership: Leader vs. Manager, Conflict Management, Business Acumen Training, Presentation Skills, etc. In order to create a solid plan, the PM needs to be self-critical (identify strengths and developmental needs), self-aware (able to see gaps and receive feedback) and disciplined (motivated to address the identified improvement areas daily); their supervisor and mentors or role models need to participate in helping the PM create and implement a plan for improvement (Rath, 2009, pp. iv-vi; Lombard & Eichinger, 2002, pp. vi-viii).

Create Link between Effective PM Leadership and Effective Teams

According to PMI®, “Teamwork is a critical factor for project success, and developing effective project teams is one of the primary responsibilities of the project manager.” (PMI, 2009, p 229) This is where the rubber meets the road. When PMs have taken this roles seriously and led their teams, it is evident throughout the entire project. And when they have not, it is equally evident. This is why so often, negative comments are directed at the PM when the project goes badly. Inherent in the job of Project Manager is effectively leading the team to project success.

The PM needs to: create a team; motivate and encourage the team; remove roadblocks for the team; instill trust within the team; drive identification and management of conflict; and be the leader. These critical responsibilities are often minimized or ignored. Developing the project team is often not done. PMs spend much time in the acquisition step, and once they get the team member, they assume that person is fully prepared and needs nothing except a schedule to follow. If the PM and the organization link the PM's role to accountability for the team's effectiveness, the PM's focus will drive improved team outcomes.

The PM needs the framework and goals to encourage and drive toward:

  • Being self-critical, self-aware and disciplined
  • Seeking feedback and continually improving
  • Remaining current on the Science and refining the Art of PM
  • Gaining training on team management and leadership
  • Refining conflict management and communication skills

Step 3 – Identify Team Responsibilities

Create Effective Teams

PMs often have little influence (or believe they have little influence) on the individual selection of team members. A PM must learn and hone the influencing and acquisition skills necessary to successfully create a team. And if the enterprise establishes minimum levels of effectiveness (training, goals, standards) then the PM has more influence to apply to human resource acquisition or team creation. Aligning the entire enterprise to team management as a means of effective and efficient project outcomes provides enculturation opportunities.

Exhibit 7 shows the PMCoE's Project Value Stream as it applies to teaming and individual responsibilities. It illustrates the expectations and high-level roles to which project teams can plan and manage. Milestones and Stage-Gate authorizations align with standards and department-level goals. This diagram illustrates, at the 30,000 foot level, the project teams operate under this umbrella knowing that the effectiveness of their teams impacts successful completion of the higher level goals. It also illustrates the value and influence of teaming early on.

Investment Lifecycle and Team Responsibilities

Exhibit 7 – Investment Lifecycle and Team Responsibilities

Create Team Member Accountability

When each team member understands the impact of his or her effectiveness on project goals, department goals, organization's goals, and then, ultimately, enterprise goals, accountability begins. Each subject matter expert (SME) or department supporting the project should have goals and objectives that drive project success. Initially, the PM is the primary person who develops relationships with each of the SME departments. If each department understands that its effectiveness impacts total project success and is held, through goals, to that accountability, then the individual team member has the motivation to develop effective working relationships as well. (Exhibit 7) By creating this pathway from the top down and bottom up, we are creating ideal work and team environments to foster project success.

We realize that this is neither easy nor simple, and that many companies hold the PM accountable for these tasks. It is understood that creating an effective team is the primary responsibility of the PM. The principles discussed in this paper are directly applicable to the PM and the team; this paper suggests, however, that having a top–down and bottom–up approach will increase team effectiveness.

When initially developed, PGN's PMCoE charter focused ONLY on the PMs throughout the company; yet the vision pointed to the entire company. There was an assumption that the PMs would push these concepts, tools, and standards up and out to their teams and organizations. Those PMs that “got it” did; those that did not, didn't. So out of necessity to meet the PMCoE's chartered Vision, Mission, and Goals, we adjusted and revised the training, qualifications, and standards. The adjustments accounted for Management's involvement and need to be trained/qualified at appropriate levels as well as PM and team members. The levels for management training and qualification were determined by the highest rank of projects or programs the department supported.

The PMs that grasp the pertinence of Step 3 and identify their and the team members' responsibilities early in the initiating and planning phases of their projects will be much more effective. By utilizing RACI charts, organizational diagrams, and detailed schedules, the PM drives the expectations and leads the team. Through appropriate use of these tools, the team members and the PM can identify the gaps and therefore the training and development needs of the team and the members (PMI, 2008a, pp. 215-242).

Team Dynamics

Exhibit 8 – Team Dynamics

Effective Teams Engage Employees

“Teamwork divides the task and doubles the success” – Unknown. The effective project manager understands team dynamics and structures the project plan accordingly. As the team is acquired, and gaps in resources or skills identified, the effective PM creates a means to fill gaps by engaging current team members in the solution. With each team member aware of gaps, and engaged in project objectives, the gaps, as the quote states, bring the team together more effectively. The effective project manager understands that the PM role and the Project Controls (PC) role are at the center of the team (Exhibit 8); they are, in essence, the nucleus of the team. The PM and PC operate as a dynamic partnership with checks and balances that create a healthy tension keeping the team energized for success. The PM & PC members set the cadence that the project team will follow. These two roles focus upon reporting expectations, metrics data updates, and details the PM needs to establish the rhythm of the project plan. When this drum beat is clear, strong, and steady, the rest of the team hears it, can follow it, and respond. The stakeholders in the outer circle of Exhibit 8 play a role in effective teaming as well; however, their role does not need be as close to the drum beat as the team members. They need to be informed or consulted as outlined in the plan.

Effective Team Leadership

Exhibit 9 – Effective Team Leadership

The effective team works together on each of their tasks and activities in sync with the plan (Exhibit 9). The organizational milestones and gates always point back to the Vision and Mission as the team meets the expectations laid out in the specific and detailed plan and schedule. Even the difficult-to-predict areas within project management, such as Risk and Quality, get handled more effectively when the entire team is engaged and operating. The team is focused on looking out for the overall success of the project as well as the collaborative, effective workings of a project team.

Conclusion

Increasing Team Effectiveness: Step by Step assumes the entire organization will be involved in the effort. Step 1 assumes the organization's management will take the lead in setting a vision and creating a standardized approach to project management so that project team members can know what is expected of them. Step 2 assumes project managers will have training, development, and leadership goals so that they drive toward leading and developing their teams. Step 3 assumes all team members understand that their effectiveness matters, and that they are expected to be engaged and to perform using their expertise. The new PMCoE for Duke Energy is tasked with taking the lessons learned from PGN and applying them to project managers and team members to increase team effectiveness…step by step.

References

Josey, W. Chad & England, Kenric (2009, October). Utilizing a project profile matrix to determine project management requirements. Paper presented at the PMI Global Congress 2009, North America, Orlando, FL.

Lombardo, Michael M. and Eichinger, Robert W. (2002). FYI, For your improvement : A developmental and coaching guide for: learners, supervisors, managers, mentors and feedback givers – 3rd edition. Minneapolis, MN: Lominger Limited, Inc.

Luthra, Vijay and BusinessDictionary.com (2012). Effectiveness. Retrieved from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/effectiveness.html#ixzz23eWTmOWg

M2 Communications and LeadershipNow.com (2010). Vision Quotes. Retrieved from http://www.leadershipnow.com/visionquotes.html

Merrow, Edward W. (2011). Industrial megaProjects: Concepts, strategies, and practices for success. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Microsoft Encarta Dictionary: English (North America). (2007). Effectiveness. Microsoft Word / Microsoft Encarta Reference Library. Retrieved from MS Word/Review/Research/Encarta Dictionary.

Project Management Institute. (2008a). A Guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (4th ed.). Newton Square, PA: Project Management Institute (PMI®).

Project Management Institute. (2008b). Organizational Project management maturity model (OPM3®) knowledge foundation (2nd ed.). Newton Square, PA: Project Management Institute (PMI®).

Project Management Institute. (2012). Homepage. Retrieved from http://www.pmi.org/

Rath, Tom. (2007). Strengths finder 2.0. New York, NY: Gallup Press.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

©2012, Deb Banister-Hazama, John Moreci & Kenric England
Originally published as a part of the 2012 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Vancouver, British Columbia Canada

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