Why Project Teams Fail:
Some Pitfalls to Avoid
by Tom McBride, Partners for Creative Solutions, Inc.
When it comes to projects, teams are often the most
effective way to get the job done. However,
commissioning a team takes careful planning and preparation to avoid a host of
problems that can lead to failure. While
not intended to be a comprehensive list, here are some pitfalls to avoid.
management support – Management commitment is crucial.
Team activities often compete with other duties, and management must
ensure that priorities are clear. Acceptance
of team activities is not enough. Management
must demonstrate involvement and sustained commitment.
Lack of focus
– Without clear goals a team has little chance of delivering the right
solutions at the right time and cost. A
formal project charter will align
the team with management’s goals and help the team stay on track through
Weak team leader
– There is no substitute for strong team leadership.
While not the “boss”, a leader’s ability to plan, motivate,
deal with team problems, apply process, build consensus, get commitments,
and overcome obstacles has a tremendous impact on a team’s performance.
Team leadership training should be a prerequisite to taking on this
challenging role. Go to www.pcs-info.com
to view a presentation on team leadership training.
members –Members need to possess both the knowledge and abilities
required to achieve the team’s goals. This includes understanding how to
be an effective team member. The
most qualified candidates should be chosen as members, but those less
qualified can accompany stronger members to gain experience.
Poor process –
Projects need a logical thought process, and many teams start without
any real plan in mind. I always
encourage team leaders to create a plan (road map) for reaching the team’s
goals. Good plans often include scientific methods, such as Six Sigma’s DMAIC (define, measure,
analyze, improve, control) or PDCA (plan, do, check, act).
While the road map will need adjustment along the way, the team is
bound to wander without one.
Lack of an
underlying trust – Optimal
effectiveness requires trust in both management and fellow team members.
A history of “flavor of the month” programs, unfamiliarity with
other members, or bad feelings from prior experiences can lead to a low
trust level. Careful member
selection, appropriate team building exercises, strong team leadership, and
consistent management behaviors all help fill this void.
Teams are powerful assets for organizations, but these factors need to be
managed to avoid failures.