The bigger the dream, the more important the team – Robin Sharma
The building blocks of solutions that IT business transformation projects deliver are commonly defined as people, process and technology. Many organizations tend to jump straight to the technology component to argue what the best fit would be for the future state of the business. The next building block in line that gets most attention is process. “Do we adjust the business to industry standards and leading practices, or are we unique and therefore accept modifications of the technology to fit our needs?” Organizations tend to spend so much time on debating technology and process that they forgot about the need of having a qualified project team of internal and external resources that can actually do the work.
Let’s be real. When IT business transformation projects fail, it may appear it is the technology, but in most cases it is not. If it fails, it either has to do with a lack of adequate leadership to move to standards and leading practices, or it is a consequence of not putting a world-class project team together, or a combination of both.
I strongly believe that the people factor is at least as important as process and technology, so not more. At the end of the day, the work gets done by people, and one can only expect world class output if there is world-class input. Here is a list of factors that can be helpful with building a world-class team:
Capability: knowledge, experience, skills, personality, diversity
Pick the right people for the job, and if they don’t seem to be out there, keep looking. When organizations select people, the focus automatically goes to knowledge, experience and skills. That’s perfectly fine as a first set of selection criteria, but in interviews the focus should shift more towards personality and diversity. Does the candidate fit with the team and organization? And what values can the candidate bring to the team that the organization does not have today, but can become very useful down the road? Diversity can be a driver of the ‘creative power’ of the project team as a whole
Intrinsic motivation and passion
You want to build a goal oriented project team, where people have the opportunity to unite business and personal ambitions. Motivation that comes from the inside is propelling a team to greater heights of achievement. Identify those common grounds and shared interests during the selection phase and foster them during the execution through coaching
There is a reason why many start-ups and companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook have work environments that are way different and standing out. They recognize that there is an immediate relationship between creativity, productivity, job satisfaction and business performance, and value that by making substantial investments in the work place. An IT business transformation project thrives on creativity and there is no such thing without top talent that feels ‘at home’ and can ‘outperform’ during business hours
In his book ‘Leaders eat last: Why some teams pull together and others don’t’, author Simon Sinek explains that remarkable things happen when there is trust and cooperation within the team. There is a continuous need for each person to feel safe. Sinek means that leaders are responsible to takeaway elements that are perceived as dangerous, and trade them with positive elements like opportunity to grow and succeed, self-confidence, education, and ability to try and fail. If certain conditions are met and the people inside an organization feel safe among each other, they will work together to achieve things none of them could have ever achieved alone. Sinek also mentions that great leaders would never sacrifice the people to safe the numbers, they would sooner sacrifice the numbers to safe the people. The great leader has followers because he cares, not because of the rank, position and authority, as that drives fear. The world-class team of the leader who establishes a ‘feel safe’ environment will be able to consistently deliver a remarkable performance, whereas a leader with the opposite style may at best harvest some short term, mediocre results
Studies have shown that a person, who contributes to a work product, wants to receive some level of acknowledgement. People want to feel good about their performance. Deepak Chopra, a well-known author and speaker of alternative medicine and forms of spirituality, found that if a person is using his strengths and the leader:
- Acknowledges that, his level of disengagement goes to less than 1%
- Ignores him, the level of disengagement goes up with 45%
- Criticizes him, the level of disengagement goes down with 25%
It is interesting to see that ignorance is worse than critique. A leader who wants to be successful with his project team, makes it a habit to provide constructive feedback on an ongoing basis, and understands that ignoring people performance is a no go zone
Leaders who build world-class project teams are strong communicators. They know how to share the right information to the right audience at the right time. They understand that predictability is important for senior leaders to make informed and timely decisions, and for team members to do their job extremely well. An effective approach to make that happen is to have a single plan-on-a-page readily available that provides instant answers to scope, timeline, financials, issues and risks. In world-class project teams, each member has a solid understanding of the vision of the initiative, the path to get there, the individual’s contribution and project performance. Effective communication has become a habit instead of a planned activity
There are more factors that help leaders to build world-class project teams. Think about degree of control, decision autonomy, leadership style, social interaction and team development or growth and learning opportunities. Technology can become a competitive advantage for organizations if they are able to attract top talent that is needed to implement it flawlessly. Therefore a change of mind-set is needed: one that focuses more on people and world-class performance.
Bas de Baat
Program Manager Enterprise Applications, PMP©