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Are project teams the recipe for success in the new world of work?

Are project teams the recipe for success in the new world of work?

In today’s fast-paced and unpredictable environment, many organisations are waking up to the need for greater agility and speed, and as a result, are rethinking their approach to traditional workplace structures, processes and routines.

And when it comes to establishing teams, many organisations are moving away from function-based team structures, with only 38% of all companies and 24% of large companies organising their teams by job function, according to Deloitte.

One of the most effective models many organisations are currently experimenting with is project teams – where groups of people from all different backgrounds and functions within the organisation partner together to work on a particular project or focus area. By joining together people from different backgrounds, you're able to place fresh eyes and open minds on the situation to create a more neutral and objective perspective.

Not only does this create a more natural, productive work environment, it enables employees to be more empowered, engaged and productive. It also increases communication and information-sharing, and allows organisations to innovate and work more closely with customers.

Here’s how to go about establishing an effective project team:

Create a dream team.

When it comes to forming a team, the first thing is to establish a clear purpose – what is it that they will be working on, and what skills and mindset do you need them to have in order to succeed? Be very clear what your project team needs – and what it doesn’t need – from the start in regards to skillset and mindset.

It should go without saying that you’ll need people that are agile and collaborative, as they’ll be working with others from all different functions, sectors and levels within your organisation, so choose wisely.

Ensure they have a blend of practical expertise, such as Six Sigma and facilitation skills, and the desire and capability to work on topics outside their traditional functions. 

To oversee the effectiveness of the team, and to create learning opportunities, it’s a good idea to appoint a mentor and team coach – both with clearly defined capabilities – but both able to support each other as well. 

Plan big, think small. 

When rallying together a project team, you’re first temptation will probably be to try and get everyone and anyone on board, especially if the project is of high importance or urgency.

But having too many people involved can actually hinder productivity. Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, has a useful suggestion - the ‘two pizza rule’. Never have a meeting where two pizzas couldn't feed the entire group. 

The same goes for project teams. Smaller groups are often more effective: they can deliver results faster, engage people better, and stay closer to the project’s core purpose. Project teams need to be clearly responsible and given accountability – having a project team without teeth is like making a pot of tea with a chocolate teapot.  

Delegate roles and responsibilities.

What is your project’s focus? Is it to establish stronger relationships with your customers, successfully launch a new product, or to penetrate a new market? 

Forming your project mission is your first port of call; next is to start establishing responsibilities.

Of course, some tasks will require a certain skillset (such as carrying out development work on your website), but for other more general actions, try giving people the opportunity to volunteer. 

Today’s workforce appreciates the opportunity to make their own decisions, so when it comes to timeframes and deadlines, allow team members to set their own goals. 

To make your project successful, you’ll need to delegate a leader - but this shouldn’t mean the most senior person in the room automatically gets the spot. 

In fact, appointing team leaders that aren’t professional managers is often the best approach. Their role is to assign tasks, manage people’s workloads and oversee the day-to-day running of the project - they’re also there to inspire, motivate and influence other members of the group. They aren’t there to be the boss – the success of this network-based model largely comes down to its collaborative nature, so everyone should feel as though they are on an equal playing field. 

It may be worth appointing a High Potential that wants to develop their skills to step up and take the lead, as it creates the opportunity to gain experience while having access to support and direction if needed.

Encourage communication and collaboration.

Project teams enable people to gain a better understanding of other disciplines and functions within the business, which in turn helps people gain a better understanding of how their own work fits into the bigger picture. 

Enable people to share information easily by creating information and operations hubs. This way, your team will be able to easily identify connections between their team activities and the desired results, as well as encourage greater collaboration across the board.

This could include utilising sites like Slack or instant messaging apps to encourage greater communication, or holding hackathons, forming daily scrums, or simply creating more open office spaces to encourage greater collaboration.

Project teams may boost employee productivity and engagement – but the primary benefit is that this approach allows organisations to increase their overall effectiveness, as these teams are essential for overcoming problems or challenges that the organisation is up against.

Our final point is that you should make heroes out of the people in your project teams. They’ve stepped outside of their comfort zone and challenged themselves to pick up new skills and experiences – so make sure you celebrate these people for the achievements.





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