You know when you work on a team with poor team dynamics. A good team dynamic, on the other hand, can be harder to characterize than a malfunctioning one, because it is different for each team. Strategies that work for a set of people may not work for others. A small-business leader needs to set up an environment conducive to collaboration, cooperation and productivity. Failure to recognize the importance of team dynamics in project management may limit your team’s achievements.
Establishing an effective team involves defining a clear purpose, goals, dependencies and accountability. Management expert Douglas McGregor observed that companies got better results when they maintained an informal atmosphere, encouraged everyone to participate in team discussions, defined clear objectives, listened to one another, reached decisions by consensus, allowed disagreement and made clear assignments. When teams function cohesively, they aren’t distracted by petty arguments and things that don’t actually matter to the bottom line.
When a team member feels valued by the project manager and other team members, her morale and confidence go up. She tends to feel more commitment to the project and is likely to contribute more discussions, task completion and other project activities. A positive team atmosphere usually leads employees to feel empowered. They’re more comfortable taking calculated risks and seeking out innovative solutions to complex problems. This serves a small business well in the long run.
Team members who disrespect each other tend to focus on their differences, not their commonalities. Varying cultural backgrounds and experiences may lead team members to make judgments and jump to erroneous conclusions. Establishing an environment in which employees can thrive without conflict involves improving the group dynamic so that team members listen to each other, value individual experience and consider other perspectives before making a decision. Effective project managers take the time to organize team-building activities. These enable team members to get to know each other better than they did before the project started and improve communication going forward. This results in fewer confrontations and sets the stage for more efficient dispute resolution, should problems arise.
Establishing trust takes time. Team members may resist exposing their weaknesses and hide deficiencies. An effective project manager works to assess the team’s strengths and limitations. According to psychologist Bruce Tuckman, teams go through four stages: forming, storming, norming and performing. When team members feel safe, they are willing to help others succeed and accept help when they need it. This benefits the entire project by keeping schedules on track. To get to the performing stage faster, foster a collaborative environment where employees trust each other to get work done.
- University of Virginia: Team Dynamics in Process Simplification
- The Economist: Douglas McGregor
- Mind Tools: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing
About the Author
Tara Duggan is a Project Management Professional (PMP) specializing in knowledge management and instructional design. For over 25 years she has developed quality training materials for a variety of products and services supporting such companies as Digital Equipment Corporation, Compaq and HP. Her freelance work is published on various websites.