How to Manage and Work with a New Project Team
In my 2022 New Year Resolution, I mentioned that I would like to level up my project management skills and move onto programme management side to oversee the alignment between the organisation strategies/objects and a portfolio of project initiatives within the organisation. Thanks to my client for helping me realise my wishes as my role turned from a product owner to a programme manager only two months after I started working with them. There wasn’t a significant change in my day-to-day work as I still practice Agile development and delivery by participating in sprint planning, team discussion, QA, release and retro discussion and managing project workflow as well as delivery timeline within my team. However, upon taking on the role of programme manager, I will need to work with another team to deliver a few internal IT projects, which is truly cross-functional and possibly a bit challenging.
Getting a cross-functional team to work together is never an easy job, let alone working with a cross-culture and globally distributed team for the first time. What management style and communication approach should I take? What dynamics does the team have? How to form the team norms? How to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable and feel motivated to contribute? You can spend the whole day racking your brain for the answers but to me, it’s more important to get to know them and devote some time thinking about how I would want the team to work. No matter what projects you are going to deliver, it all starts with people. So my proprieties. The first thing I did prior to commencing with the projects is always encouraging team members to talk about what they have been up to, their project experience, their skillsets and specialties. Besides these ice-breaking questions, below are a few other practices I have used in my recent project — Turned out to be working so worth giving it a try.
1. Set up clear goals and expectations
I know this sounds cliché as it’s a rule of thumb for managing all project teams. Having a common shared goal and letting everyone understand the expectation towards deliverables and its strategic alignment with organisation is particularly crucial when the new team forms. It also lays a foundation for building a productive and result-oriented team working together to achieve objectives with shared understanding.
When setting up a goal, we should consider both development and business aspects. A clear goal for the development team should include what deliverables we are going to have in the end, what business objectives we need to achieve through these deliverables and the timeline for us to deliver. The expectation is more about showing what you stand for and explaining how you want the team to work. Communicating your values, the drivers of your decision and clarifying the process and making everyone accountable for their work would be helpful to form the team norms.
2. Never assume others understand how you work
More issues and problems appear at an early stage of the project than later stages when the project team goes through forming and norming phases. This happened frequently when the team can’t comprehend the business requirements and (everchanging) stakeholders’ requirements. As a programme manager, your job is to explain every procedure and process to the team from both high-level and operation level perspectives so the solution designed and developed by team can really help address the business problems and meet stakeholders’ needs. You may need to confirm and clarify requirements between stakeholders and team multiple times at the beginning of the projects and sometimes, you will get frustrated by repeating the same things or doing the same presentation explaining the solutions the team is going to deliver. Taking time to explain project goals, expectations, requirements and solutions early on will help avoid misunderstanding and poor results later.
3. Encourage honest and candid feedback
Followed by the fortnight sprint, we always have our post-sprint retro session. During the session, everyone will talk about what we have done well in this sprint, what needs improvement and finish off with an action list, which needs to be implemented and practiced from the next sprint. Sometimes, the session may get too general and as time goes by, team members will treat this as a ritual, more or less, without too much “tangible” contribution. When working with a new team, I would rather have frequent one-on-one sessions with each team member encouraging them to share their thoughts on every aspect of the project team. Honesty and transparency are two golden rules to build up effective communication. Being candid in giving feedback not only helps improve the situation or team performance but also promotes the culture of continuous improvement by team members supporting each other.
Originally published at http://chrissylovesmarketing.com on March 6, 2022.