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Accommodating Teaming Styles

High-performance teams, self-managed teams, and other nontraditional structures began to emerge over 50 years ago in Great Britain and gained acceptance across the globe as several large corporations began to adopt the concepts. The general idea behind these teaming styles was to loosen managerial constraints in an effort to increase worker performance and make quantum leaps in accomplishment of organizational goals.

When framed correctly, the teams need little direction and excel in accomplishing the goals of their projects. If the dynamics are not understood, however, little is accomplished. From a project management perspective, Agile or XP projects can be a bit intimidating because the team dynamics can overwhelm the designated leader. In reality, successful self-managed teams are not leaderless. They have simply figured out a mechanism to allow many people within the team to play a leadership role.

Even in a team where a project management role has not been defined, someone must take on the job of setting a direction to accomplish a goal. The goal may only be one week in the future, but the team must coalesce around that goals, and the person who makes that happen is a leader. If the project manager understands the dynamics of the team, he or she can use these dynamics to improve the team's focus and increase its performance. The PM must be comfortable with sharing decision making and will need to focus heavily on communication of information within the team and with the stakeholders of the project. Things change quickly in this environment, so communication of status becomes a driving force for the project.

Microsoft Project is an excellent tool to aid the PM in communication. Two components need to be established to make this successful. The overall goal of the project needs to be clear to the team, and the boundaries of the project (overall timeframe, scope, resources, and budget) must be understood. If these components are established within the tool as a baseline, the remainder of the schedule can be flexible or rigid, as dictated by the project structure and the teaming style.

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