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Straight Talk on Project Management

No 'I' in team

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No ‘I’ in Team (but there is in individual). The value of you in your IT Project.

It’s people that deliver successful IT Projects!

When methodologies are effective – it’s the team of people that make them so, data is king but it’s nothing without the individuals who interpret it and make the big decisions based upon their reading of it, and no matter how AI has evolved to help – it is the human touches on any IT Project are the ones that deliver the greatest value.

My Project Leader friend Malc says, “You can’t feel the pulse of the project without leaving a fingerprint.”

I love that! One of my personal passions is putting the right people into projects at the perfect time – and enjoying watching the difference they make. True, there’s no ‘I’ in team, but there is in ‘individual’ and its individuals who make a team and it’s individuals who make the difference.

THE PERFECT TEAM 

Do you remember in 2016, when Google declared that, following years of analysing interviews and data from over 100 teams, it had discovered the secret ingredients to make the perfect team?

The key drivers of an effective team, they announced, are emotional intelligence and great communication.

I remember thinking, “No shock, Sherlock.” Or words to that effect.

The best new team members are the ones who hit the ground running and soon feel part of the furniture like they’ve been with you for years. Sometimes this just happens, you get lucky, profiling during recruitment helps but even after meticulous profiling, HR departments can spend a small fortune devising onboarding programmes to ensure new team members are ready to dive right in.

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE AND GREAT COMMUNICATION AS A SERVICE. 

For over a decade, at Stoneseed, we’ve been placing just the right talent in IT Project teams to deliver the greatest value possible – talent that is a best fit for your culture and your exact business need. This can be harder, especially if you’re using Project Management as a Service resources to fix a short-term gap or meet an urgent delivery need.

While it certainly is more of challenge, it’s arguably even more important that a best fit for your team and your mission is introduced. ‘Buying in’ PMaaS talent is never a luxury, one client calls Stoneseed ‘the fourth emergency service’ – we’re often called in to help a critical situation or at time of pressing need or greater demand. The last thing you need is for the new person to take a month to “bed in”.

So … best fit people has always been a top priority for us.

Stoneseed achieves this by first getting to know you and how you do business, the team members and how they operate, what the client’s team and organisational cultures are like and how those individual members are aligned with the culture. Then, and only then, can you inject ‘as a Service’ talent that will not only complement a team but hopefully take it to the next level.

We’ve known for years – successful teams are the sum of all their parts. “Individuals who deliver flashes of lightning without stealing each other’s thunder”, as my radio presenter friend Gareth says.

To take Malc’s thoughts about fingerprints on a stage – just like every finger print is different, so too are the unique personalities and strengths that each individual brings to the team! The right mix of complementary skills creates a potent team!   

There’s science to back this all up too.

In 2015, a study of work teams (1) found that “higher levels of interpersonal sensitivity, curiosity, and emotional stability” resulted in teams being more cohesive and encouraged “prosocial behaviour” between team members. The more a team was made up of cool-headed, inquisitive, and altruistic people, the more effective it would be.

Similarly, a large meta-analysis (2) demonstrated how team members’ personalities can and do influence “cooperation, shared cognition, information sharing, and overall team performance”.

In other words, who you are not only affects how you behave as an individual, but how you interact with other people and contribute to a team dynamic. As Dave Winsborough and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, writing for HBR poetically put it, “Team members’ personalities operate like the different functions of a single organism.”

Ensuring that you have the right individuals, with complementary talents and personalities is not only the sweet spot for team building, it delivers better project outcomes and, as a result, greater business value too.

PEOPLE MAKE PROJECTS BUT CAN BREAK THEM TOO

Equally, a team lacking in cohesion, complementary skills and alignment to business culture and organisational goals can lead to terrible outcomes and even project failure. This is something that we often see when we’re called upon to deliver PMaaS in those emergency scenarios I touched on earlier.

Some time back, I remember Stoneseed being asked to help a team that had lost control of a succession of IT Projects. What was interesting was that the team atmosphere was lovely, they were all genuinely team-mates! They had each other’s backs, spoke warmly of one another and, in over five years, only one team member had left and been replaced – so there was a rare consistency in terms of personnel. In addition, there was an abundance of innovation and great ideas, and the team members each had a keen handle on strategic planning. They just seemed to be going around in circles.

At the genesis of this team, the organisation had carried out psychometric testing, and the team shared this with me. The team was blessed with an abundance of strategic thinking, relationship building and execution skills, in fact each member was considered strong in these areas. However, not a single member of the current team scored high in the ‘influencing’ domain. The one team member who originally did – was the guy who had left! Since then, the team was like boat with lots of paddles, billowing sails and even an offboard motor but without a rudder – so it was often going in the wrong direction and getting there really fast.   

Businesses and organisations use a number of profiling methods to ensure best fit. I have a feeling this team must have used the Gallup Test or CliftonStrengths, you may be familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test or the Kolbe Index. The point, I suppose, is that building a complementary team is an ongoing process – you have to maintain that mix of personalities and strengths that fit together to create the big wins.

When the natural influencer in this team left, they hired someone who was just like the crew members that remained. They introduced a relationship building, strategic thinker who was great at executing into a team of relationship building, strategic thinkers who were great at executing. They overlooked that what they had lost was an influencer to steer the team and their skills in the right direction.

HUMAN RESOURCES ARE THE MOST VALUABLE RESOURCE YOU HAVE

Getting the humans right is crucial!

Again, Dave Winsborough and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic summed this up nicely for HBR: “A useful way to think about teams with the right mix of skills and personalities is to consider the two roles every person plays in a working group: a functional role, based on their formal position and technical skill, and a psychological role, based on the kind of person they are. Too often, organizations focus merely on the functional role and hope that good team performance somehow follows.”    

We’ve seen it time and again with projects we’ve been asked to help with! There was a disruptive change project being delivered by a team without a single member psychometrically considered ‘innovative’, a project where only a fifth of team members were considered results-oriented (imagine how that was going), and even a project team with less than half of its team members considered to be ‘process-oriented’ (think about that for a second)!

The thing is, not everyone has to be the executing achiever type. Not everyone has to the relationship builder. Not everyone has to be the analytical, ideating, strategic genius – but someone does!

In conclusion, give yourself a high-five. 

You are what makes your IT project meet business need, it’s you and what you do, day-in-day-out, week-in-week-out, year-in-year-out, that exceeds expectations, you’re the difference between failure and success. Not the processes, not the Gantt charts, YOU! You don’t do it alone, of course, your strengths compensate and complement your colleagues’ weaknesses and vice versa. I hope you feel this because it is true.

And, you when you need Project Management as a Service resources, wonderful human beings who will fit right in … choose a provider who FEELS this too.

Stoneseed’s Project Management as a Service can help you bridge any gaps with Project Management and Technical Professionals, delivering services through a flexible, on-demand resourcing model, from strategy to service delivery. All Stoneseed’s PMaaS services including Project Managers, Business Analysts and PMO experts are available onsite or remote. 

You can align resources as and when you need it, on a cost effective, full-time or part-time basis, call 01623 723910 or email info@stoneseed.co.uk to find out more.

 

  Find out about Stoneseed’s Project Services

Sources

(1) Team diversity and team helping behavior: The mediating roles of team cooperation and team cohesion – ScienceDirect

(2) hbr.org – great teams are about personalities not just skills