As a project manager, your job is very similar to the team leader from one of your favorite spy caper movies: putting together a team that has all the skills to get the job done. You will need to deal with many issues that rarely come up in a spy movie, however, such as characters who dodge work and complain about the difficulty of the job. This article will help you deal with some of these problems. It is excerpted from the book IT Project Management: On Track from Start to Finish, Second Edition by Joseph Phillips (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2004; ISBN: 0072232021).
In todayís world, itís typical of a single project to span the globe. No doubt itís difficult for team members to feel like they are part of the same team when theyíre in London and their counterpart is in Phoenix. Ideally, collocated teams communicate better, work together better, and have a sense of ownership. Reality, however, proves that noncollocated teams exist in many organizations, and the project manager must take extra measures to ensure the project succeeds, regardless of the geographical boundaries. When dealing with noncollocated teams, your team will likely be built around subteams. A subteam is simply a squadron of team members unique to one task within the project or within each geographical area.
For example, as depicted in Figure 6-4, a company is implementing Oracle servers throughout its enterprise. The company has 12 locations throughout the world. Some of the same tasks that need to be accomplished in Madison, Wisconsin, will also need to be performed in Paris, France.
Rather than having one team consisting of six members fly around the globe, the project manager implements 12 subteams. In this example, each subteam has six members. Of the six members, one is the team leader for that location. All of the team leaders report to the project manager, the 73rd member of the team. The team members in each location report to their immediate team leader. Implementation of the Oracle servers at each location will follow a standard procedure for the installation and configuration. The path to success should be the same at each location regardless of geography.
Certainly not all projects will map out this smoothly. Some sites may not have the technical know-how of others, and travel will be required. In other instances, some sites will require more configuration than others, or an increase in security, and other variances. The lesson to be learned is that when teams are dispersed, a chain of command must be established to create uniformity and smooth implementation. The phrase ďout of sight, out of mindĒ often proves true when dealing with dispersed project teams.
Figure6-4.Subteams are crucial to large implementations.
Finally, when working with multiple subteams, communication is paramount. Team leaders and the project manager should have regularly scheduled meetings either in person or through teleconferences or videoconferences. In addition, team leaders should have the ability to contact other team members around the globe.
In some instances, team members from different teams will need to work together as well. For example, the communication between two servers has to be configured. The teammates responsible for this step of the configuration will need to coordinate their configurations and installation with the teammates who have identical responsibilities in other locations.
When an individual joins your team, you and the individual have a relationship: project manager to team member. Immediately the team member knows his role in the project as a team member, and you know your role in relation to the team member as the project manager.
What may not be known, however, is the relationships between team members. You may need to give some introduction of each team member and explain why that person is on the team and what responsibilities that person has. Donít let your team members just figure things out for themselves. In a large project, it would be ideal to have a directory of the team members, their contact information, and their arsenal of talents made available to the whole team.
On all projects, your team will have to work together very quickly. Itís not a bad idea to bring the team together in some type of activity away from the workplace. Examples of team building exercises:
A bowling excursion
A hike and overnight stay in the wilds
A weekend resort meeting to learn about each other and discuss the project
A trip to your local pool hall for an impromptu round of team pool
Team Building Exercises Work
Donít discount out-of-the-office team-building exercises. Professional team building exercises are available around the globe:
Rhythm Journey (www.africanpercussion.com) Led by Paulo Mattioli, these team-building programs help teams find and thrive on their synergy.
Project Adventure, Inc. (www.adventureinbusiness.com) This company creates exciting staff development programs specifically for your organization.
Outdoor Adventure River Specialists (www.oars.com) Get out of the conference room and onto the river where you will become a team.
ETD Alliance (www.etdalliance.com) This web site provides more information on experiential training and development. An excellent starting point for locating team-building activities for your company.
Interviewing Potential Team Members
Remember your first big interview? You shined your shoes, made certain your hair was just right, brushed your teeth, and had a breath mint just in case. Your goal was to get the job, so you did your homework: you researched the company, investigated the position, made certain your resume and references were up-to-date, and then gave it your best shot.
Guess what? As a project manager, you may find yourself conducting interviews to woo internal employees onto your project team. Youíre mission will be twofold: impressing the candidates while at the same time learning about them to see if they are the right fit for your project team.
Why You Need Interviews
If you are one of the lucky project managers and you get to handpick your project team, youíll need to interview potential project team members. You, or you and the project sponsor, may discuss which employees should be placed on the project and why. The type of work to be completed will serve as your primary guide for the talent needed on the project. You may also need to look for other attributes such as aptitude, track record, and current workload.
An interview will help you ascertain each prospectís level of ability before you invite that person onto the project. Or, in the instance the individual has been assigned to the project, an interview helps you learn about her abilities and how they may contribute to the project.
Interviews for IT projects can be completed formally, with resume, or informally conducted over lunch or coffee. Regardless of how the interview is completed, youíll need to learn if the prospective team member will be able to complete the type of work you have in mind. This means, of course, that youíre looking for a specific type of worker based on your planning.
An interview, even if itís a simple, informal meeting, allows you to discuss the prospective team memberís abilities and how they can help on the project, and it gives you an insight into the personís goals, ambitions, and outlook regarding work. Interviews allow project managers to learn about the team members, their assets for the project, and how much of a learning curve may be required if the interviewee is to join the team.