What Makes for Ineffective Teams? – Part 1

man-with-group-03-512pxIn order to achieve success on our highly technical, very detailed oriented projects, it’s imperative  we have highly effective teams.  Problematic project resources on our teams can be dealt with…though not without issues, setbacks, budget hits, and timeframe concerns.  Oh, and customer questions…forgot about that one.

But when most or all of our team is ineffective – unable to productively work together and collaborate on an a successful end solution – that’s a major problem and it’s extremely hard to deal with.  In this two part series, I’d like to cover some of the major signs of ineffective teams.  They may not be recognizable early on enough to stop the cancer they can cause on the project, but having a list (feel free to add your own thoughts, of course) may help us avoid project failures in the future.

Insufficient resources for the project needs at hand. Whether it’s people, equipment, supplies, facilities, time, or money, insufficient resources make teams ineffective. The situation can also lead to conflicts, dissention, even revolts. If resources are not distributed in an objective, meaningful manner, then differences can magnify into severe conflicts. Members of the team can quickly become polarized.

Lack of support at the top. If team members perceive - whether justifiably or not - that management is not supportive of the project, then motivation can plummet. People will feel that the work is not valuable to the organization. When this happens, it may take an act of God – or at least executive management – to right the ship.

Uncommitted team members. No one has an emotional attachment to the goal.  And without that goal focus, there is no real drive for the team – no ownership of tasks and pride in successful outcomes.  Soon, no one really cares.

Poor team collaboration. The team members do not feel that they are part of a team. Instead, everyone acts in his or her own interests.  This is a bad direction for a team to head as it can lead to rogue actions and behavior, dissention, conflict, and even straying from completing one’s tasks.

Mistrust among team members.. Everyone is guarded, protective of his or her own interests. Openness and truthfulness are perceived as yielding to someone, giving a competitive advantage, or exposing vulnerabilities. When this happens, idea sharing is at a minimum and that is never good if you want to be part of a successful, cohesive team on a successful project.

Poorly defined team member roles. The reporting structures and responsibilities are unclear, causing conflicts. Territorial disputes and power struggles occur often.  If this happens, responsibility falls completely on the shoulders of the project manager.  Communication, assignments, delegation, authority, and the definition of project roles begins and ends with the project manager.

In Part 2 of this two part series, we’ll examine a few more signs that you may have an ineffective project team for your engagement.  Look for the warning signs and take action as quickly as possible to stop these issues from taking hold and ruining your project.

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