Thank You for Your Collaboration

While traveling abroad, I saw an interesting sign in the restroom.  The request was to keep the facilities as “neat as you would like them.”  At the end of the note, it said, “Thank you for your collaboration.”  In spite of the possible error on the sign, we all know about the power of collaboration.

Companies that embrace the power of collaboration realize that the best way to solve complex problems is to build cohesive teams made up of members with different skills and expertise.  Getting teams to work productively is at the heart of project management.  Developing the structure for teams to work at a high level of efficiency and effectiveness is at the heart of productive teams.

No matter what type of team you belong to, it’s challenging to keep everyone focused and productive.  This is particularly true on project teams.  The secret to managing successful team dynamics is to keep the practices simple as possible.

Before introducing healthy team dynamics, it’s important to understand the difference between teams and work groups.  Is your group a real team, a work group, or something in between?  How you approach the development of your team or group will differ depending on the nature of the group, the duration of the project, the project scope, and the targeted project outcomes.

First and foremost, don’t confuse a group with a team.  All teams are groups, but not all groups in an organization are teams.

The difference between a team and a group is that members of a team are interdendent for overall performance.  In other words, a team is created when members are committed to a common purpose or set of performance goals for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.  A group, on the other hand, consists of individual contributors each vying for individual outcomes.

What do you have?

Lisa DiTullio, Founder, Your Project Office, www.yourprojectoffice.com.  Author, Project Team Dynamics:  Enhancing Performance, Improving Results, ©Management Concepts

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3 thoughts on “Thank You for Your Collaboration”

  1. Yes, it is important to know the type of team(s) you lead, as this can affect how you lead them. I have managed teams, groups, and groups of teams. Each is different.

    A team might consist of a dozen engineers all working on the same product with a common deadline. They will often be found working late into the night together to hit a goal on time.

    A group, on the other hand, might be a set of fabrication specialists working in a model shop, an IT engineer or two, plus a half-dozen manufacturing specs experts. They all have independent jobs to do, but do not necessarily work on the same product or project at the same time. As such, they don’t share common deadlines or goals, except in the broader sense of making the division or company successful.

    Each of these groups/teams have different needs. The leader’s ‘staff’ meetings in each case, for example, might cover different topics or emphasize different aspects of the job. And, conflicts might arise more in the team than the group due to the nature of the pressures and role definitions.

    Know how to lead different teams and groups takes experience, common sense, and sometimes the right personality. Not everyone has all of these.

  2. Thanks, Lisa, for a great clarification between groups and teams. A challenge that I would like to throw out there is — As someone practicing “the art of project management”, what can a project manager do to transform a work group into a team?

    One step is to educate the project sponsor on the value of a common purpose or vision
    Next might be to clearly articulate the common purpose in the various languages that each role (and stakeholder) will connect and understand.

    What do you think would result if more project managers valued the act of transforming the work group into their team? What would happen if more project managers took ownership of that particular task?

    1. Laura,
      The greatest challenge, in my mind, is too few project managers consider the distinction in the first place. The best way to get everyone into the “team” state of mind is to ensure there is adequate planning before launching into the work, so everyone has a clear understanding of the project opportunity, goal, major deliverables, etc.
      Lisa

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