The post-COVID working world has changed the way many project management teams operate – and not for the better. In fact, according to recent PMI research, 80% of project managers feel that the pandemic has had a negative effect on their business.
Here are some highlights from this research on the effects of the pandemic on project management:
- 79% say it had a negative impact on project delivery
- 73% say it had a negative impact on project financials
- 78% say it had a negative impact on their ability to achieve project goals
What's more, only one-third were confident that their projects will realize more than 75% of their intended benefits.
While this may seem like a pessimistic view, it wasn't all negative. When talking about remote working some respondents were positive while acknowledging the need for innovation.
‘We have learned to work in virtual teams, which wasn't part of the company culture. I believe this is a positive change for the future.'
‘Projects continue to run, but at a lower speed. We need tools and strategies to be more effective under extreme circumstances.'
If this information resonates, it's time to do something about it.
How do you know you have a good team?
The word “team” is bandied around a lot. In fact, Merriam-Webster defines it as “a number of persons associated together in work or activity”. Hardly inspiring.
Jon Katzenbach takes a different tack by defining real teams as a small group of people with complementary skills who are committed to a shared purpose, who succeed or fail together, and who hold one another accountable. Sound familiar, or too good to be true?
So, what are the signs you have a good team?
- Common goals: A good team is stronger for having different outlooks. Good team members won't agree with everything. They'll argue, and push each other towards greatness.
- Trust: Good teams have a good team leader who builds connections. They will also have established norms so everyone understands their roles and goals within the team. This reinforces a sense of trust and shared purpose.
- Collective output: A good team member doesn't do their bit and no more. Teams with shared purposes often work together to solve a single problem, and celebrate the wins together.
If you're struggling to see your teams in the above, then maybe they're not real “teams” after all. This, however, might be because they need more maturing or more support.
Take time to build the best possible hybrid teams
There is more to being a team than working on a project together. A ‘real team' has a diverse set of perspectives and skills as well as a shared purpose.
What's more, they trust each other. They're able to argue and push each other to do better so that they can achieve their goals. This is perhaps one of the most important traits in a high-performing team. But how do you get there?
Well, according to Bruce Tuckman, there are four stages of team development.
Here is our summary of each stage with some tips we think will help you move your teams through the process.
At the start, you will likely have excited team members looking forward to getting started and getting to know each other.
Leaders should ensure that teams at this stage have a clear project roadmap that highlights the project purpose, timeline, and expected outcomes. In addition to this, schedule time for the team to get to know each other.
Once you've made introductions, established goals and set tasks, the team will start to find their rhythm. There may be clashes, and some members may start to challenge decisions.
At this stage, leaders should establish processes to track progress and fully engage with the team. This will help build more trust, especially if you involve each member and ensure everyone feels heard.
At this stage, your team understands their roles, the project, and each other. This is when you should start to encourage team building and bonding activities. Beyond that, look to develop your team. Be sure to book regular 1-1 sessions where you can review priorities, development, and goals.
Once you've developed your team into a high-performance productivity machine, it's time to let go. You can just focus on leading, management, and other ways your team can help your business.
You should also maintain the team dynamic through ongoing group activities, meetings, and collaboration. What's more, now that you know they can do their jobs effectively, look to help your team with their personal development and any future goals they may have.
3 ideas for improving hybrid-remote team performance
The Covid pandemic has changed the way we work, in particular with the development of what is often called “hybrid-remote” teams, i.e. teams that include both people working remotely some or all of the time, and people working on-site.
The knock-on effects of this new team scenario are both wide-ranging and disorienting:• Informal networks within teams, and within the larger organization are harder to build without the help of that impromptu coffee corner chat
- Reaching the right balance between synchronous (i.e. meetings) and asynchronous work is much harder to find when you can no longer pop by a colleague's workstation to cross-check a piece of information, or align on a specific project
- Zoom meetings can be more difficult to facilitate (between Zoom fatigue and the inability to properly read body-language cues - not to mention the temptation to open a secondary window while the meeting is running…)
- Team members working remotely may feel isolated and invisible, while onboarding new recruits remotely makes integration into the team more challenging.
In other words: hybrid-remote teams deeply affect the way information circulates, and the bonds between team members.
So how can you take this new dynamic into consideration? Here are three ideas that can help.
1. Make sure that everyone has a good audio and video setup
It sounds like a trifling thing when pretty much all computers have an inbuilt webcam and loudspeakers. But as Johanna Rothman explains a good headset, microphone and camera are essential to enable rich and natural communication between team members.
2. Make communications ‘asynchronous by default'
Set an expectation that communication should be ‘asynchronous by default' so that no one misses out on vital information, and information asymmetry is reduced.
There are many tools that can serve as support for that information, and it is likely your team will use several simultaneously. A good starting setup could be:
- A Project Portfolio Management solution to help build a single version of the truth so that everyone can keep up with the progress of projects in real-time.
- An internal messaging tool (such as Slack, Google chat, Microsoft Teams etc.) to enable the creation of a backchannel for informal communication.
3. Write down your team's “work rules”
Discussing how you are going to work is not just something for Agile teams. Writing down your team's rules (especially the unstated cultural norms and quirky traditions) can go a long way to help everyone on your team feel included and supported.
Johanna Rothman suggests a set of questions to get started discussing your work agreements. Here is our take on them:
- How and when do we choose to meet? If all team members are not in the same time zone, what are our hours of overlap?
- How do we work with each other? How do we review each other's work or offer feedback?
- Should we use team artifacts, such as boards, in our hybrid-remote space? Are there better ways to communicate the same information?
- How can we use our backchannel? Are there any rules or customs that we should follow?
- Would more or different technology help us connect more as humans?
- What prevents us from affiliating as a team?
No matter what's going on in the world, with the right focus on communication, collaboration, and team-building, your teams can continue to achieve their goals.
For many businesses, this means embracing a new working world. One with hybrid teams and remote project management at its core.