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A dysfunctional development team can be the road to ruin

With so many information systems projects failing – as many as 71% according to the Standish Group Chaos Report – it is important to plan well and ensure that everything is as perfect as can be, with a contingency in place for any unexpected challenges.

One of the key aspects of a successful project is ensuring the right people are working towards bringing it to fruition.

There’s no ‘I’ in team

It’s no secret that a strong team can make any project run smoothly and can overcome even the most challenging of problems along the way. However, finding this combination of staff can be tricky, but keeping them can be even harder. In our experience there are three key elements:

  • Suitable management style – Teams can become disgruntled if they feel the CEO or senior management are micro-managing them throughout the project. Micro-management doesn’t show attention to detail, it shows a lack of trust in the team in position. If there is a lack of trust in their ability then this needs to be addressed.
  • Encourage creativity and risk-taking – If you have gone to the trouble of choosing people with strong, diverse skills they should be encouraged within the team to feel safe enough to offer ideas and to take risks, knowing they have the support of the team behind them. In team culture terms this is known as ‘Psychological safety’.
  • Conflict resolution skills – It’s important that the project manager has conflict resolution skills, as it is likely at some point during the project duration there could be conflict and difference of opinion amongst team members. The role of the project manager is to resolve these issues and keep the team intact.

Benefit of a strong team

Once the right team is in place and they all have the required skills to make the project work there will be additional benefits. These include:

  • Creativity – A team who all have different skills but who are working towards a common goal will bounce ideas off each other resulting in a creative, proactive environment and a project which runs smoothly.
  • Trust – The closer a team works together, and the more comfortable they are with each other, there will be a sense of trust among them which will help to generate creativity and a feeling of being part of something bigger. This is important for project managers to nurture as trust leads to honesty and transparency and can reduce any element of misreporting.
  • Accountability – A team that has complimentary skills and works well together will use this as accountability, ensuring that everyone pulls their weight so as not to let the rest of the team down. This can make the project more efficient.

Teams in Turmoil

However, when you are dealing with the egos, emotions and stress of a number of people, especially if working to tight deadlines can result in a team breakdown. This can manifest in numerous ways:

  • Poor communication,
  • Criticism of team members,
  • Unreasonable expectations,
  • No praise when it is due,
  • Lack of motivation

The result of these are often half-hearted work and missed deadlines. Perhaps there is conflict between team members which is not being handled by the project manager or there is a team member who is not pulling their weight, resulting in missed deadlines and affecting the work of other staff. Once these signs are spotted the team dynamic needs to be readdressed otherwise the project could end up being a failure statistic.

Need some help?

If you feel your project has gone off track, your team has stopped communicating efficiently or you haven’t got the expertise within your team to make the project work, give the team at Brandon Cross a call. We have extensive experience establishing and managing project teams. If you are in any doubt we can provide an independent assessment of your project and your progress we can help find the right solutions and team for you.