You’ve got an important project to accomplish in a limited time with limited resources—but you can’t do it all yourself. So where do you begin and how should you organize your team? Real Projectives® answers those questions frequently for many of our clients. As professional project managers, we have assembled and led hundreds of teams to success. Here are some tips, culled from our decades of experience, to help you best organize your team for maximum results.
The Dos of Team Organization
- Clarify Goals and Expectations
If you haven’t already, we recommend that you first write down your specific goals followed by any known constraints as well as the required project timeline. As clearly as possible, define success and failure and who your stakeholders will be. The essential part of organization demands that you spend time with your stakeholders, direct supervisor, customers, and “sponsors” to garner a meeting of the minds on what is to be accomplished, how everyone expects to be kept informed, and when you will need their decisions or approvals along the way. Also note what will not be part of the project (out of scope).
- Craft A Schedule
After defining the project, you’ll next need to put together a rough “milestone” schedule of tasks that focuses on key deliverables so you have a sense of what needs to be done by when. For scheduling, you can either use a simple spreadsheet or a more formal tool like MS Project. There are also many free tools online for arranging tasks into groups and displaying them as timelines, cards, or Gantt-style charts. Pay attention to interfaces between parts of the project and anticipated handoffs among people as problems often arise at these points.
- Inventory and Gather Your Resources
After you have outlined a high-level schedule, it’s time to think about how you are going to achieve all those milestones. At this point, it may be wise to take inventory of all internal staff and external resources you already have available to help. Those internal people probably aren’t all directly within your control, so that means you’ll have to speak with their supervisors to get permission so they can join your team. Go to such meetings prepared with who, how long and what will be expected of each person. Try to tie their participation to outcomes that help your company overall and align with the supervisor’s goals as much as possible.
After aligning your internal resources, you’ll likely find that you won’t have all the necessary skills internally and/or not enough of their time to tackle the work solely with current employees. That’s when you’ll need to solicit outside help (see our other article on hiring more staff vs. contractors). Here’s where your company’s policies and procedures for procurement will come into play. Depending on those procedures, the process could be as simple as emailing a known consultant and asking them to participate, or as complicated as conducting a full-blown bidding process to the public at-large. Either way, we believe it is critical to put into writing your expectations and understandings regarding each position you intend to engage and how that role relates to the team and other positions. As a team leader and project manager, integrating everyone in a collaborative and deliberate manner will garner the greatest performance while minimizing frustrations and misses. (We’ll save tips on managing external contractors and consultants for another article.)
- Build the Team
Once you have assembled your team, take the time to meet (we still think it’s worthwhile to do so in person as much as possible) so everyone can get to know each other, discuss goals and expectations, and refine the schedule of tasks and deliverables. Building an aligned team from the start requires listening, understanding and buy-in from all participants. Given everyone’s busy and competing schedules, we find it beneficial to also agree on dates and times for future check-in calls, meetings and reports. And don’t forget to repeat these activities each time you fold in a new player.
- Set Up a Platform for Easy Collaboration
Now that you have the winning team, you should invest the time (and usually a little money) to set up and use one or more web-based platforms to help the team remain aligned with related documents, notes, files, and communications. While staying on the same page always takes effort, leveraging modern tools enables everyone to be more productive. Encourage and support regular use while discouraging stray methods so you don’t end up with competing sources of data and communications. Occasionally ask for feedback on what is working and what’s not, then adjust accordingly. As a bonus, you’ll have a record of all actions, decisions and deliverables already arranged and in one place.
- Communicate and Communicate
This might sound obvious and cliché, but your team can’t communicate enough. We haven’t found a situation where less communication benefits anyone. Some might argue that repeating messages can be annoying and cause people not to listen, but we’d counter that this is a flaw in not changing up delivery rather than in the message itself. On the contrary, making assumptions, not listening to everyone and not confirming harmony leads to disfunction. No matter how good the individuals on your team (including you) are, a high-performing team needs to interact using appropriate methods of communication (and selecting among the variety of choices could be a challenge in itself) and holding each other accountable to the scope, timing and quality of each of their roles as well as the overall project goals.
In summary, while the demands and urges of jumping straight into doing things can be strong, your project will be best served by you purposefully taking the time to scope your resource needs and organize an appropriate team of people and support systems. Real Projectives® stands ready to be your coach or team member on your next important project. So please give us a call.