There was a day in the not so distant past that intact, high performing project teams were the standard. This is not true today. Skills specialization, matrixed organizations, virtual workforces, and a shared resource pool have changed the project team landscape for good. Now team members come and go from project to project based on their work demands and allocations. As a result of this chaos, resource inefficiencies on projects are short-changing project managers of required progress and timely results.
There are three areas project management professionals can focus on to get their project teams hitting on all cylinders and reduce these resource inefficiencies.
It is no secret. A predictable environment is much more efficient than an erratic environment. In a predictable environment people know what is expected and how to fit in. Little time is spent figuring things out.
To be very productive, project team members need to have a regularly scheduled meeting that is held on the same day and time each week. The meeting also needs to have a standard agenda with people showing up prepared to contribute. Task assignments should be communicated consistently and clearly. Team member work results should be communicated back to the project management leader in the same way. There should not be any deviation from week to week in the day or time these items are due.
Big kickoff meetings with everyone in attendance is, and will become more so, a thing of the past. With team members coming onto a project at various times, project management professionals need to develop competencies for onboarding new team members. The faster a new team member is brought up to speed the faster they start delivering results.
Many project managers are creating internal websites that centralize team member information, project documentation, works standards, policies, and procedures. New team members have all the information they need for working with other team members and producing deliverables that meet the required standards. On the horizon, team members will use this centralized communication medium for posting personal fun biographical information as well as project progress reports.
To get the most out of your project team members, provide them with the clearest possible expectations for their work on a weekly basis. The less they have to guess about what and when something is needed, the more productive they will be.
At the start of every week, team members should be given their tasks for the current week and the next week after that. This is so that if they finish something early this week they know what they can jump onto that was planned to start next week. Every task needs to have a planned start and finish date, as well as its amount of float. This way team members will know what tasks take priority and what has to be finished first if there is not enough time to finish all the schedule tasks that week. Lastly, task descriptions may need to be supplemented with additional information (detail descriptions, associated requirements, etc.) so that the assigned team member knows exactly what they are responsible for delivering. If for any reason a team member does not deliver what is expected, then they need to be told sooner rather than later and with as much detail as is possible. This is the only way a team member can correct their mistakes and deliver what is needed.
When a project team has predictable execution, rapid onboarding, and clear expectations and feedback they will be in a position to contribute with much more force. Another way of stating this is you will get more horsepower out of an engine that is hitting on all cylinders; and, as someone fulfilling the project manager role, that is music to your ears.