How to prepare your team for a project
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Once you have put in the project groundwork, i.e. you have chosen your team and chosen the most suitable methods and approaches, the next step is to make sure that your team is well-prepared to undertake the project. You need to do this by clarifying the values you want your project team to stand for and the behaviours you want them to adopt. In this post, we are going to take a look at how to achieve this, from getting your team into the right habits to helping them self-organise.
HOW TO GET YOUR TEAM INTO THE RIGHT HABITS
Unfortunately, not all project teams naturally have the right working habits. However, you can ensure that they build these habits so that they become more productive. It is important to remember that everyone is different; some people adapt with ease while others struggle. By undergoing project management training, you will learn how to adjust to the different personalities in your team. You do need to be sensitive when implementing change. Your team’s emotions will change. While they will feel a sense of acceptance and newfound confidence in the end, it is likely that this will only come later. You need to be sensitive to this if you are to introduce new habits effectively.
There are a number of approaches you can use to make it easier to get your team into the right habits. This includes blending new habits with old. Piggybacking on existing behaviours will make the transition easier. You should also find different ways to motivate your team, and you should lead by example. If you do not follow the habits you want your team to follow, they will be less inclined to do so. However, if you act as a role model, and the team witnesses the benefits of this new habit on your day-to-day work, they will follow suit. You can also use small wins to gain large victories. Split up new habits into little, step-by-step progress marks, and your team will be motivated by the small wins you achieve along the way.
DEALING WITH CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
One of the most important steps in getting your team prepared for the project is dealing with any cultural differences. This is something a lot of inexperienced project managers fail to address, and it can lead to problems later down the line. This is, of course, even more important in the current working environment, as businesses are globalising and they are taking on a greater number of remote workers who will be collaborating with your team from all over the world. As a result of this, you need to have the ability to embrace differing mindsets in situations that can be very challenging. In other words, you need to have cultural intelligence.
You must bridge cultural differences with sincerity and sensitivity if you are to lead a multi-cultural, and often multi-regional, team successfully. There are a number of different ways you can do this. Incorporating humour is always a good place to start. This does not mean you should make a joke after every sentence! However, a little bit of humour can go a long way to opening people up and lightening the mood, which will, in turn, lead to improved work relationships and, consequently, more successful project outcomes. It is also important to make sure you involve workers who might be naturally quiet and reticent. There are going to be people that would rather stay in the background when the group are having a discussion, yet it is critical that you get their feedback as well.
In addition to this, it is important to recap the key points of any meeting you have and that all responsibilities are made perfectly clear for each member of your team. Embracing different communication and learning styles is extremely important. In some cultures, people prefer to stay in the background until their opinion is asked for, whereas others value face-to-face confrontation. As a project manager, it is your responsibility to get to know what the preferred communication style of each team member is, enabling you to engage with him or her in the most effective manner.
Finally, you should ask questions and make sure that your team members learn about each other. This includes learning about their weather, holidays, customers, entertainment, and the like. There is no need to go into heavy subjects, however. The likes of religion and politics are best avoided. Showing interest is important, as is remembering what they tell you. When it comes to managing a multi-cultural team, it is all about knowledge and respect. Ask questions to get to know your co-workers better, and respect the differences in each culture.
NAILING THE FIRST PROJECT MEETING
You need to have a project kick-off meeting before you can dive straight in and formally begin work on the project. The importance of this cannot be ignored. This meeting is going to set the tone for everything that follows. Also, you have just one chance to ensure that the overall plan and the project’s objectives are thoroughly understood by each stakeholder.
The key to any good meeting, no matter whether it is a kick-off meeting, a finance meeting, or a routine project catch-up, is to make sure that you prepare. If you fail to do so, it will show. Below, we outline some tips for you to follow to ensure your first project meeting is a success.
• Goal setting – Firstly, you need to establish your vision and deliverables. Everyone needs to have a common goal that they are working towards, and you must lay out everything that needs to get done and when it needs to be done by.
• Team roles – The next step is to identify the members of your team and what their roles are. You should make a list that details this, and incorporate contact details so that communication is easy. If you do not define the roles of every member of your team, lines of responsibility can easily become blurred.
• Project plan – During this meeting, you will finalise the details of the project plan with your team. However, it is advisable to have an initial draft project plan in place that you can fine tune, as opposed to going in empty handed. Remember to make it clear that project plans can, and will, change over the course of the project.
• Defining success – You also need to think about how the success of the project is going to be measured. By setting expectations early, and establishing your metrics for success, you can make sure that everyone is on the same page.
• Potential roadblocks – Virtually all projects experience hurdles and hiccups at some point. You have to be pretty lucky if you do not encounter any roadblocks along the way. By identifying potential risks from the beginning, you can be better prepared when they do come along.
• Communication – How will your team communicate with one and other? An effective project team needs to have successful communication procedures in place. Consider the logistics, especially if you are managing a team that is based in different locations. A consistent process needs to be established, i.e. will you have a weekly or daily catch-up? You also need to consider the way in which communication will take place and what technology will be used.
• Working practices – The next step is to determine the working processes. You need to decide what practices are going to be the most appropriate for this particular project.
• Tools – Determine what tools are going to be required for the project, and make sure that everyone has them.
• Scheduling – The next step is to schedule the meeting. You need to ensure that all stakeholders and team members are there. Of course, some people may need to be present via phone or video conference, but do not leave anyone out.
• Final touches – The final touches involve setting the agenda and preparing data such as presentations or slides for the meeting. If you do not do this in advance, you will only be wasting precious time.
CREATING A SELF-ORGANISING TEAM
The final piece of the puzzle is to make sure that your team is self-organising. This is a modern management philosophy whereby the project team can influence the decision-making process, and they have the authority to adjust their workload. This is important because it creates better employee engagement, more accountability, and improves efficiency because team members will take responsibility for the decisions they make and own their project tasks and activities.
There are a number of different ways you can help your team to self-organise. Begin by arranging a short introduction meeting. In this meeting, you should introduce the concept of self-organisation. You need to explain exactly what this is, and show your team the advantages that will be gained if they are self-organised. Once they realise the benefits, you can then explain how this concept is going to be implemented. You should also take the time to ask your team members whether there is anything that they would like to improve in the current process.
Aside from this, to implement a self-organising team, make sure that there are regular reviews and that the working process is adjusted accordingly. Regular team meetings are important, as they allow you and your team to review how self-organisation is working. There may be some teething problems along the way, and by holding regular meetings; you can ensure that necessary readjustments are made. You also need to avoid a blame culture. When self-organisation is not implemented correctly, it can often lead to people blaming one another for any mistakes that are made. Failure is going to be part of the process; we do not get things right all of the time. However, instead of looking for someone to blame, make sure that the focus is on the steps that are required to obtain success.
You should also make sure that information exchange is facilitated. There needs to be an effective method in place for people bringing issues to you if they do arise. It is also pivotal to have a structure of transparent communication in place so that the team can update one and other with ease. Regular internal meetings should take place to ensure that all members can inform one and other on what they are currently doing. You also need to avoid interrupting people once they begin. Try not to change priorities, unless essential, and do not go into the details of how each team member should do their job. One of the keys of self-organisation is trusting your team to take the reigns.
You should also give your team members the platform to leverage their talents. Once you have milestones put in place, why not give your team the ability to determine what tasks are needed for the next work cycle? Let the members of your team decipher the tasks they want to be responsible for. This is beneficial because it enables your team to pick tasks that will play to their strengths. Last but not least, set checkpoints and milestones, and make sure they are sensible. The workload needs to be split into tasks that are small and actionable. Team members should be given the responsibility to set their own internal deadlines that will work towards their overall project goals being meet. At the same time, you need to ensure progress is tracked by setting external milestones.
So there you have it; everything you need to know in regards to preparing your team for the next project they are taking on. From instilling new habits to nailing the first project meeting, if you follow the steps mentioned above, you should find it a lot easier to implement your requirements and to ensure the team works effectively.
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