Friday, February 20, 2009

Leading a Project Team......

Cross-functional teams are becoming increasingly prevalent in business today because of their role in enhancing efficiency. But managing a group made up of staff from other departments as well as your own can be challenging. It's critical to maximize the contributions of each team member.

Building your Project Team

The first step is to make sure that you have a clear understanding of goals and objectives for the team. Clarify any key points and expectations for the project with your immediate supervisor. If you are responsible for determining who should participate on the team, consider how each potential member can help you accomplish the assignments ahead. Keep the team as small as possible while still bringing in all the skills needed to fulfill objectives. The smaller the team, the easier it will be to manage and to keep focused on specific tasks. If other departments or senior managers have already appointed some of the members, arrange to meet with those who've been selected. Inform them of the purpose of the project and invite them to the first meeting. Collect information about their specific skills, how they can be used for the project and how much time they will have to devote to the team. And finally, make sure that each team member and his or her manager understand the time commitment and the importance of this project to the company.
Launching the Project

The initial meeting will lay the foundation and set the tone for the duration of the project. Keep it organized, upbeat, and on task. Start by outlining goals and objectives. The agenda should include the structure and mechanics of how the group will work together, the budget and resources that are available, and the development of initial strategies, task plan and timeline. Strive to reach agreement on which team member will be responsible for each assignment in the plan and try to establish realistic deadlines for delivery of key elements of the project.
Decide when the next meeting will be held and what progress reports are required. Follow up the meeting promptly with a written summary of what took place. Use the group's time wisely. Meetings should be useful and efficient; reports and other communication should be clear and consistent. It's a good idea to maintain a written schedule or timeline for the project that can be adjusted and updated as the work proceeds, and don't forget to provide regular progress reports to the executive who gave you the leadership assignment.

Sharing Leadership

Some of the major responsibilities of leading a team are maintaining and communicating a consistent vision, keeping the group on course, motivating team members and recognizing their accomplishments. Your role is to coach and to lead -- and never to micromanage.
The most effective team leaders share the management with team members, making decisions by consensus whenever possible. This helps build a cohesive group that places a high value on cooperation and taps into the energy, ideas and initiatives of each participant. In your coaching role, check in periodically with individual team players on an informal basis to see how each is doing. Frequent communication will help resolve problems and keep the project on track. Let the team know that you are available to assist when they encounter problems or have scheduling conflicts between the project and regular work responsibilities. Learning to manage the many intricacies of the team process is worth the effort. It will give you the opportunity to expand your circle of colleagues, increase your effectiveness as a leader and add value to your employer.

Research Analyst,

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