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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My Love/Hate Relationship with Project Teams

Project teams can be a project manager's greatest resource or can be a huge impediment to getting things done. I have a lot of opinions about project teams and most people would find them to be controversial. I will state them here and hope for feedback.

My general theories about project teams follow:

Project teams tend to waste a lot of time, and like to blame others (outside the team) for lack of project process

Project team members are rarely on the same page

Internal politics doom many project teams from the start

Project managers usually don't have the ability to reward or punish bad behavior

One or two "bad apples" can spoil the whole bunch

Many functional managers don't believe they have to support project teams, and at times they do all they can to undermine the team approach to managing projects

A "visionary" is a person that is usually disengaged from everything and accountable for nothing

Lack of leadership, direction, and follow-up from top management is the number one cause of project team failure

If you have a member of your project team that would rather be doing something else, do everything you can to grant their wish

Most project managers are wimps when it comes to managing individual members of their teams

Lots of organizations talk a good talk when it comes to project management and teams, then go about managing change using the same old failed processes

Many project team members are loyal to their functional departments, not to the project

Teams by nature are dysfunctional, and because of this fact the project schedule and estimates should reflect this

Dysfunctional project teams are the fault of senior management because of their refusal to attend important project team meetings

Many project teams are composed of the wrong people doing the wrong things at the wrong times.


Anonymous said...

"Dysfunctional teams are the fault of senior management" because they don't attend meetings? Uh, I thought the project manager was the team leader. I think you might look to where you should properly place the blame. Being the project manager is a tough job. You list many reasons why it is, and I'd say that most of them are reasonably common and hardly controversial, but the majority of them are the responsibility of the project manager.

ProjectSteps said...

The point of my comment was to generate debate. First, thank you for your comments. My point was that senior managers are leaders in the organization, and if they leave project managers to "fend for themselves" then they are equally (if not solely) to blame for team dysfunction. Project managers can't operate in a vaccum, and can't be held accountable for team dysfunction when management support is absent. While the project manager is held accountable for project results, they certainly can't be held accountable for all team dysfunction, especially when most if not all of the team members report to functional managers.

Thank you again for your comments. At the end of the day it "all" rests on the project manager's shoulders, however it doesn't hurt to challenge the old guard's (PMI) opionions and assumptions around managing project teams.

Human behavior is very difficult to manage and plan around.