Teamwork is a group of people working in collaboration or by cooperation towards a common goal.
A team consists of a group of people, committed to a common goal that no one individual can achieve alone. The focus of teams and teamwork is on mutual accountability and performance.
The concept of teamwork presents itself differently across the projects, programmes and portfolios as the make-up and environment of the teams vary. Within the P3 environment there will be a hierarchy of different teams. The obvious example is a project team within a programme, a programme team within a portfolio and the overall portfolio team.
Regardless of whether they are involved in team selection, P3 managers should consider a number of factors when developing a team. Individuals will have different skills and personalities. They may come from different cultures and working environments. The team may be physically co-located or work virtually across different time zones. The impact of all these factors on teamworking needs to be considered.
The establishment of a team will initially involve the selection of individuals based on their skills, behaviours and attitudes. Teamworking is most effective when people with complementary skills and behaviours are committed to a common objective and method of working.
Models such as Belbin and Margerison-McCann illustrate how different personalities work together to create a working team. Each personality has its strengths and weaknesses. Within the team, one person’s strengths balance another’s weaknesses. Individuals will perform better in a team context if they are given a role that plays to their strengths.
The use of psychometric tools, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory, may also help the P3 manager and team members understand and value the differences between individuals.
Once assembled, teams do not simply become high-performing because they have been given a common objective. They go through a series of development stages as illustrated by Tuckman or Katzenbach & Smith. The P3 manager must be aware of where a team is in the development cycle and adjust the leadership style to suit.
Projects, programmes and portfolios evolve throughout their life-cycle phases. This changing environment will alter the balance and dynamics of a team. Effective teamworking is a valuable commodity and needs constant nurturing by the P3 manager.
Teamwork may be within a tightly integrated team or in a collaborative working group.
In integrated teams, the emphasis is on the team developing together as a unit and working jointly on objectives. Collaborative groups share information, insights and perspectives, supporting each other to do their job better, but the focus is on each individual’s performance and accountability.
The project environment is where the most close-knit teams will be found. The nature of a traditional project is that the ultimate deliverable is well defined and often broken down into a series of well-specified products. This provides the focus for the team’s efforts.
The project manager must communicate details of the project deliverable to the team and how it will be achieved. All team members must be committed to the end product and understand their role in its development.
On larger projects, the project manager may delegate the development of component products to team managers. By implication, the project manager is delegating responsibility for team development as well, but must retain an overview of performance.
The project manager is responsible for the continued cohesion of the team and should strive to keep individuals motivated and support them in their personal and career development aspirations.
While a common focus on a well-defined goal is an important tool for developing a team, it can also be a weakness. All projects are susceptible to change. Sometimes this is due to unavoidable external factors, but often it will be due to changing requirements from stakeholders. If the team is focused on a well-defined goal, constant change can be demotivating.
In environments where change is frequent, or requirements need to be flexible, project managers may choose an Agile approach. This develops a team with a different mindset as teams are often self-organising and may use techniques such as ‘timeboxing’ and ‘sprint planning’.
Within a programme there will be a number of sub-teams that the programme manager needs to develop as well as the overall ‘team’. These could include, for example, the:
- team of project managers;
- team of business change managers;
- support team (risk manager, communications manager, administrators, etc.).
These sub-teams will be developed concurrently with the objective of achieving the programme’s vision and component benefits. The levels of responsibility of the team members may mean that a collaborative working group approach is more relevant. While individual managers will take responsibility for the development of their own teams, the programme manager must create an overall team ethos for the programme as a whole.
Inevitably there will be a significant turnover rate within the programme team as projects are instigated and closed or as business-as-usual units go through the change management process.
Maintaining a team ethos across this broad, diverse and changing community will require excellent communication and leadership skills on the part of the programme manager.
The concept of teamworking will not be as visible in the portfolio dimension. The intensity of human interaction associated with integrated teamworking is not present, other than in the core portfolio management team. The wider group of individuals with responsibility to deliver different parts of the portfolio form a collaborative team.
It is in the interest of the portfolio manager that the appropriate type of teamworking is encouraged and exploited at all levels to maximise portfolio performance. Collaborative and cooperative working within the portfolio with a shared vision of the strategic objectives should also be encouraged.