Over the decades, organisations have constantly strived to improve the effectiveness of project teams. Projects are considered to be a failure if they are not delivered within the scope and budget and if they are not delivered on time. As a result, poor project management is a major concern for organisations, particularly when there is a need for huge investments of resources.
With the advent of information technology, communication and the availability of vast amounts of information on how to execute projects in various domains, project teams still find it extremely difficult to complete the project within the specifications. Hence, it is imperative that organisations and project teams adopt new ideas and methodologies while managing projects.
Several experts around the world have conducted research on how to improve the processes involved with project management. However, a critical aspect being missed is the people involved. This essay believes that people behaviour is a key driving force to ensure successful project management.
Traditional project management deals with developing project charters, stakeholder registers and project management plans highlighting the scope, cost, schedule and the risks. However, the people involved are constantly missed out. However, Figure 1 indicates not only the need for good project management methodologies but also acknowledges the need for strong and cohesive project teams.
This essay highlights the need for close – knit project teams by analysing the impact of team dynamics team performances. Furthermore, by reviewing the literature, the report draws suitable conclusions by comparing the theory with the relevant examples during the field trip to Mount Cotton. The report also makes necessary links to project management.
A group is commonly referred to as several individuals coming together to accomplish a specific goal or task (Oluikpe, 2015). And when we talk about group dynamics, it refers to the behavioural characteristics of the group. Group dynamics primarily deals with how groups are formed. Furthermore, group dynamics also deals with how the team functions as a single entity by taking a closer look into the structure and the processes adopted by the team. In the current process driven world, the dynamics which impact project teams are often overlooked.
What is Team Dynamics?
Team dynamics deals with the unconscious psychological forces which influences the team behaviour and performance (Georgiadis, 2015). Team dynamics is a result of the following:
- Nature of the team’s work
- Team members’ personalities
- Relationships between team members
- Environment in which the team operates
The unconscious psychological forces can either positively or negatively impact the team performance. Hence, to get a better understanding what team dynamics are, the report shifts its focus to the impacts of these dynamics on team performance. They include:
- Team cohesiveness:
Team cohesion is the degree to which each member wants to contribute to enhance team effectiveness to work as single functioning unit (Ivaskovic, 2014). To run operations effectively, organisations are divided into departments and their further sub divided into teams to perform specific tasks. However, with an increase in the rate of globalisations, team based work groups have increased dramatically in organisations. Thus, for organisations to grow, these teams must successfully execute their projects. Hence, it is quintessential that team performances are high to ensure organisations reach their specific goals and objectives.
Team cohesion establishes a strong environment where team members are committed to achieve their goals by communicating with one another constantly to track and monitor the progress of the project. As a result, team performance increases significantly.
Hence, it is evident that team performance and team cohesion have a positive correlation. Furthermore, they can be enhanced by positive motivation by providing group based rewards (Fruhen & Keith, 2014). For example, the portfolio manager and the project managers can reward project teams for displaying excellent team chemistry. Therefore, team cohesiveness becomes a dynamic process which reflects the tendency of the team to work together in order to achieve their respective targets.
- Team Member Engagement:
An engaged team member is one who is enthusiastic and committed to their work and constantly look for methods to enhance the team’s effectiveness. The level employee engagement clearly depicts the relation between team leaders and their respective members (Nolan, 2011). To put this in simple terms, the characteristics of the team leader is a significant factor when it comes to employee engagement. According to a research study conducted by Robert Walters, where he surveyed 250 managers and approximately 700 employees across Australia and New Zealand, indicated 61% of the employees are engaged in their work because team leaders provide challenging and interesting work (Walters, 2014).
Acknowledging the chain of command of an organisation, the only source to provide clear information on the corporate goals and objectives to the team members is the team manager (Macey & Schneider, 2008). Consequently, the team leaders must play an active role in conveying the corporate goals to their respective team members. Therefore, the team members feel closely involved with the organisation. As a result, employees are motivated to work.
Other steps that can be adopted to enhance employee engagement are to provide rewards and recognition. Furthermore, team members should be provided with opportunities for career progression. The flowchart below indicates the positive impacts of higher employee engagement.
- Team member interactions:
Similar to the aforementioned impacts, team member interactions are also impacted by group dynamics. Communication is a vital tool for high performing teams. A Strong communication channel helps to build a positive relationship between team members (Pinto & Pinto, 1990). With frequent interactions creates an environment where team members share ideas and knowledge.
Dynamics is referred to an interactive system or process which involves conflicting or competing forces (Georgiadis, 2015). However, team dynamics primarily focuses on the interaction between team members and relates it to team performance. Further, team dynamics also relates to how team members relate to their individual tasks. From this, we can infer that team dynamics can impact communication.
Poor communication in any team will obstruct the efficiency. Regardless of the size of the project team, good communication is quintessential for productivity (Pinto & Pinto, 1990). When team members receive poorly communicated information, employees often do not understand the task clearly. Consequently, team members feel undervalued and they are no longer committed to their work.
It is also important to note that communication is a two way street. The information flows from one team member to another and then back. Hence, the team leader must create an environment where team members are comfortable sharing their knowledge and ideas. Thus, the effectiveness of the team will improve when team members are constantly interacting with one another.
- Decision making process:
The ability of an individual to make decisions varies from person to person. Rational judgement is often impacted by human emotions. However, the biggest factor affecting decision making is when a group is involved. Team dynamics can help individual team members to make decisions as a team. However, team dynamics can also have negative impacts on the decision making process (Georgiadis, 2015). Every team will rely on group decision making at some point during their tasks. Hence, team leaders must be aware of any group biases and its impacts.
Some common illustrations are:
- Conformity: Several team members often just go along with the group decision, even though they know that certain decisions may not be the right one (Rozin, 2001).
- Group Polarizations: One would think that decisions made by a group are often moderate. However, the phenomenon called group polarization intensifies people’s attitude (Van Swol, 2009). As a result, extreme decisions are made.
- Obedience to Authority: Team leaders must never be under the impressions that since team members are following instructions the team performance will be high. On the contrary, team performance is negatively impacted when team members never challenge the team leader’s decisions.
The team dynamics that have been discussed so far will be further elaborated in the following section by relating to specific instances during the field trip to Mount Cotton.
Background of the field trip to Mount Cotton:
The field trip to Mount Cotton highlighted the fact “project management processes is not the only entity which ensures project success”. Rather, the flied trip emphasized that the people involved are the key drivers. There were four project teams, where each team had to execute certain tasks. Each team had a team leader who reported to the program manager. The program manager ensured that all projects were being executed successfully keeping the interests of the project owners in mind. The project teams had to work together as a close – knit team by establishing strong communication channels between each other. Furthermore, team members had to work coherently to avoid fines (both in terms cost and time). The flow chart below indicates the chain of command which was followed during the field trip.
Task 1: The Chasm
The first task required all project teams to work together. The goal was to get all project team members to cross the chasm without losing any equipment. Thus, project teams had come up with a constructive idea to cross the chasm by using a few ropes, one plank, one harness and one karabiner.
The program manager had to create an environment, via team leaders, where individual team members are actively involved to come up with the best solution to cross the chasm. The program manager did a commendable job by constantly interacting with the key stakeholders. Hence, project teams always knew what they were doing since the instructions were clear. Specifically, the project team leader adopted a democratic approach. As a result, the team leader was successful in creating a very friendly work environment. The team members felt comfortable sharing ideas and knowledge.
Relating back to the literature, it was discovered that when the project team leader promotes an environment which supports interactions, it increases the rate of employee engagement. Consequently, we, as project team members, were enthusiastic about our roles and constantly came up with new ideas to execute the task.
The crucial aspect was that all project teams had to execute this specific task. Hence, to further benefit project teams, the program manager provided every project team leader a chance to pitch in their respective ideas. Inevitably, the program manager created an environment where every project team’s input was valued.
Again, going back to the literature, it was indicated that team dynamics primarily deals with the unconscious psychological forces which influences the team behaviour. Hence, it is evident that the program manager as well as the project team leaders did an excellent job creating a positive work environment and improving the relationships between team members. They realised the importance for a close knit project team, right from the beginning. These illustrations from the program manager and the project team leaders enabled the team members to develop a positive attitude towards their respective tasks. However, it is crucial to maintain this work environment during the course of the entire project.
Task 2: Object Retrieval
The second task was specifically for project team 4. The goal was to retrieve the object which was located in the middle of the circle. However, there was one key specification from the project owners: no team member or equipment must touch the ground. The project team was provided with the two poles, few ropes of varying lengths, harness and three karabiners.
The project team leader continued to adopt a democratic style of leadership on the basis of the team’s performance in the previous task. The task required team members to think outside the box and come up with innovative ideas to retrieve the object. With ideas constantly jumping around the team, it was finally decided that our project team will require additional manpower. The task required the team members to hold the poles in an upright position on opposite sides on the circumference of the circle. With the aid of the ropes, the required tension will be provided for one person use harness and retrieve the object. In order to hold the poles in an upright position the project team required more manpower.
The program manager was extremely busy running around ensuring all projects were progressing smoothly, keeping the stakeholder’s expectations in mind. Consequently, the information of our project team requiring additional manpower took a lot of time to reach the program manager. Moreover, with other project teams busy with their respective tasks, the program manager found it difficult to provide the required manpower. The fact that the information took a while to reach the program manager resulted in project team 4 to sit idle.
It is evident from this illustration that as the project progresses, the responsibilities carried out by the program manger and the project managers increases constantly. With so many things happening simultaneously, it is a natural human tendency for a few things slip out of one’s mind. This example exemplifies the need for constant interactions between team members, project team leaders and the program manager to track the progress of a project.
Meanwhile, as our project team waited for the additional manpower to arrive, we continued to come up with alternatives. Credit has to be given to the project team leader for continuing to promote employee engagement. However, as fatigue creped in, team members were exhausted. This led to the birth of subgroups within our project team. Consequently, team member interactions reduced during the course of the project. Reduced interactions led to poor communication channels which negatively impacted team cohesion as well as the rate of employee engagement. As a result, the overall effectiveness of the team reduced.
The present day scenario dictates organisations to constantly to improve the efficiency of the processes involved in project management. However, based on the literature review and relating it to the field trip, this essay highlights the need to adopt a people oriented project management approach. After all, it is the people who drive the projects.
Furthermore, the literature indicates that team dynamics are unconscious psychological forces which impacts team behaviour and performance. However, these unconscious psychological forces can be controlled by the project manager. To further elaborate, the project manager must constantly analyse how his/her actions impact the effectiveness of the project team. Hence, the project manager must be adaptable.
Going back to Figure 1, project managers must promote a project management environment which is people oriented. Project managers can significantly improve the efficiency of project execution by learning how team members perform individually as well as in a team. It is important to note that people oriented project management approach does not reject the principles of traditional project management. Rather, the emphasis is on using these principles based on the situations to enhance team behaviour. As a result, there should an emphasis on human psychology, experiences of team members and team dynamics.
Now that we know team dynamics can be influenced by the project manager (or team leader), this essay recommends the following actions to ensure that team dynamics positively impacts team behaviour and performance.
- Define the culture: Team culture is interpreted in different ways by people. However, from a project management perspective, culture refers to how things are done to complete the given task. Hence, the project manager’s role is to clearly define the team culture. This enables them to effectively handle the team.
- Challenge project team members: From the literature, we know that employees are engaged in their work when they are constantly challenged. In order to satisfy all stakeholders, the project manager must compromise certain aspects of the project. Hence, the project manager must challenge the project team to think outside the box to come with the best alternative to execute the project.
- Adopt a systems thinking approach: Acknowledging the fact that we live in a world where every action has a corresponding impact; the project manager must create an environment which supports systems or holistic thinking. Consequently, team members are aware of their actions. As a result, systems thinking will not only boost the impact of the project but also enhances team performance.
Murthy, A. S., & Sreenivas, S. (Producer). (2014). Does People Behaviour Impact Projects? PM Times. Retrieved from http://www.projecttimes.com/articles/does-people-behavior-impact-projects-how-and-what-do-we-do-about-it.html
Walters, R. (2014). Developing High Performance Teams to Drive Business Performance and Engagement. http://www.robertwalters.com.au/wwwmedialibrary/WWW2/country/australia/content/whitepapers/developing-high-performing-teams-whitepaper.pdf
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