Talented people working together effectively is the key to a successful project. But just because you’ve assembled the A-team doesn’t mean things are going to run smoothly. The best teamwork demands regular communication and a clear process, which doesn’t always happen naturally.
These eight tips are a great way to put effective processes in place and ensure your next project team is more Green Bay Packers than Buffalo Bills.
1. Select a decision maker
Does your team already have a defined leader? If so, the leader should clarify if they will act as the ultimate decision maker and be accountable for the success of the project. Or you may want to institute a more democratic process. In which case, figure out how you will make decisions and whether they require unanimity from the team or just a simple majority.
2. Start with a do-nothing get-together
Instead of immediately heading for a conference room to bash out ideas, try a more informal first step. If you’re bringing together a new team, go for lunch and get everyone to talk about what they do and how they like to work. If your team is already established, you can skip this part and go straight to a broad project conversation. Discuss how the goal fits into the company’s big picture, why the project is interesting and what people hope to learn from working on it.
3. Restate your goal everywhere
Once you’ve agreed on the expected outcome and why it is important, make sure that this driver of everything you do becomes impossible to forget. Summarize it into one or two sentences and then treat this as a maxim to live your project by. Write it on whiteboards, put it at the header of every document and add it to project team emails.
4. Know your roles
Every single member of your team should have a key role and everyone else should know what that is. If you have multiple people with similar skills, create clearly defined areas of responsibility. Nothing undermines a sense of ownership like confusion over who should deliver what. You should also find out who is working on other projects and whether this work has higher priority than yours.
5. Don’t get hung up on having regular meetings
Scheduling short morning meetings is great for removing obstacles and providing focus ahead of a day’s work, while regular review session can keep ideas moving. But don’t let these meetings get in the way of everyone’s productivity. Assign a meeting leader who should check in advance that you have significant items to review. If not, don’t be afraid to cancel the meeting and discuss any smaller items via email or your collaboration tool.
Check out this article for five alternatives to having meetings.
6. Disagree with each other
There may be no bad ideas in a brainstorm but afterwards it’s everyone’s duty to point out flaws in the ideas you’re pursuing. When reviewing work, you could appoint a rotating devil’s advocate whose role is to find faults. Encourage questions from non-specialists to ensure your specialists like designers or engineers can explain their decisions in layman’s terms. Just don’t let all this questioning inhibit your progress. You don’t have to solve every problem right away, as long as you remain aware of them.
7. Present a united front
Once it’s time to share the fruits of your labor with your clients or business stakeholders, make sure your team is united around what you’re presenting. Take any criticism as a team – there will be plenty of time for internal debate later – and make sure credit is handed out equally. You could even share presentation duties across your team, as nothing gives people more ownership of an idea than having to explain it to a packed room.
8. Review your process
When you’ve wrapped up the project, take the time to review how you worked together. Even if the team is disbanding, understanding what worked and what didn’t will be useful for your next collaboration. If it’s a long-term project, mid-term reviews can help improve your process. And of course, if the project is not going well, you definitely need to stop and figure out where things are breaking down.
These eight tips can help your next project team to work together more effectively. What’s your experience of collaborating with other people? We’d love to hear your teamwork stories and tips in the comments.