For most of us the bad team project experience gets cemented in our psyche as youths. We’ve all worked on class team projects that were nightmares. Straight out of central casting you have: the know it all, the slacker, the sheep, the control freak and the kid who does nothing and somehow still gets a decent grade off of everyone else’s efforts. The teacher blindly misses (or chooses not to deal with) the opportunity to teach you how to work together effectively or account for the BS you will experience. It is a stressful and frustrating process that most of us simply survive. Sound familiar? Here is a simple framework to follow for your next cross functional team experience to help you thrive not just survive.
Really Align Around The Purpose
We’ve all heard Simon Sinek’s passionate plea for the why. He’s right. It matters. Everyone in the room should understand the why through a few different lenses. Why are we solving for this? What happens if we don’t solve for this? How will we know that we were successful? What is the exact desired end state? For the tactical box checkers addicted to being busy instead of productive, this will feel like dying a painful death. It’s okay. It will yield in spades in the long run. Think of this as the foundation of the house you are building. Cut corners and you will be screwed down the road.
Create Conditions For The Right Kind of Trust
We all know how important this is in any human interaction yet we fail at this time and time again. It doesn’t have to be so scary. For your project team it is necessary to create the conditions and understanding of three crucial ideas to build trust (We actually measure these behaviors in our Collaborative Harmony Index diagnostic along with other behaviors that derail teams and tick people off).
Vulnerability – Everyone is willing to be vulnerable by seeking feedback, input and owning mistakes. (our ego’s will tell us that’s bad. Don’t listen!)
Inclusivity – Creating a working dynamic that truly welcomes differences in background, style, and expertise. (the goal is to amplify diversity of thought)
Trustworthiness – Everyone committs to doing what they say they are going to do. (action not just words)
Create A Roadmap That Everyone Believes In To Ensure Execution
It is incredible how hard it is to keep teams from diving head first into this step. If you aren’t aligned around the purpose your planning will suffer. If you don’t have the right kind of trust, you won’t be having the right conversations to get to greatness to amplify the collective strengths and intelligence of the group. It’s not until this step that you actually get your hands dirty in the tactics. Getting clarity around priorities, roles, resource needs and timelines is key to planning in a way that keep the team aligned to the purpose. Don’t be afraid to slow down to get it right or you will be fixing it in the mix which is expensive and frustrating.
Account For Priorities Outside of The Project
This is where many bite the dust. People tend to get over ambitious and not realistically account for everything that they have to deliver on in their “real job” outside of the project. When we work with project teams, we suggest that deadlines should be negotiable for that reason. Amazing how that flips some people out. Doesn’t mean people can blow off deadlines and not deliver. It just means that there are external factors beyond someone’s control that will impact bandwidth whether we like it or not. As long as expectations are managed clearly and communication is effective, there are no problems.
I sincerely hope this helps expand your thinking on how to optimize your next cross functional project team so you can GET MORE DONE AND FEEL GREAT DOING IT!