Teamwork: Part I -- Gaining commitment

With the complex nature of IT projects today, it's becoming more and more necessary for network managers to assemble teams of people with multiple skills and knowledge to work on projects. Teams are more than a group of individuals contributing separate parts to a project. Teams exist because the very success of a multifaceted project depends on the members working together cooperatively-combining their know-how to create unique solutions.

Initially team members will be confused, wondering: "What are we here for?" and "What am I supposed to do?" Anxiety may be high, as one more project is added to an already burgeoning workload. Conflict may arise concerning technical solutions and team processes. The diversity of the team members, itself, can be a source of tension.

"If the network manager doesn't address these team issues first, the project may be headed for trouble from the outset," said Jan Wallen, with eSales Strategies LLC, a CRM and sales management consulting firm (http://www.sellingvalue.com/). "After explaining the project to the team, start to gain commitment by asking the members what they think. Work jointly to further define and clarify the scope of the project: What are the challenges they'll face? What additional resources will they need? Who wants to do what?"

Also you'll need to address the diversity of the team members. "Team members bring different strengths, weaknesses, styles, and personal agendas," said Reid Smalley, Director of Workforce Development, Business and Industry Training Center, Fulton-Montgomery Community College (rsmalley@fmcc.suny.edu). "Members from outside departments, for example, frequently have a different perspective about a problem that may be difficult for your technical staff to understand. It will take extra effort to make effective communication and collaboration a priority."

Smalley says that network managers also should be aware that a contributor who excelled on the last project, may not be the star performer on the current one. "The strength a person brings to one project may be a weakness on another, and visa versa," said Smalley. "For example, great mathematical or logic skills might be the key for resolving one problem, whereas customer relationship skills might be the most critical for another."

Managing successful teams goes far beyond assigning a project and waiting for the results.


This was first published in January 2001

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