Chapter 10 – Gray and Larson
2. What are the elements of an effective project vision? Why are they important?
There are four key elements to an effective vision. First, the vision must make strategic sense. Second, one must be able to communicate it to others. Third, the project leader must have a personal passion to achieve it. Finally, the vision should inspire others to give optimal effort. The vision must make strategic sense; otherwise others will not see it as appropriate or realistic. One must be able to communicate the vision to others so that they understand it and choose to pursue it. The project manager must have a passion to achieve the vision so that it is seen as being credible and has the full support of the project manager. Finally, visions motivate superior performance and therefore must be a source of inspiration to others.
3. What should a project manager emphasise group rewards over individual rewards?
Because most project work is collaborative effort, it makes sense that the reward system encourage teamwork. Recognising individuals can distract from team unity. Because project work is interdependent it can be very difficult to distinguish who truly deserves individual credit. Group cohesion can be undermined if members feel that others are receiving special treatment. Camaraderie can vanish, to be replaced by bickering and obsessive preoccupation with internal group politics. Such distractions can absorb a tremendous amount of energy that would otherwise be directed to completing the project. Individual rewards should only be used when there is clear agreement that a member deserves special recognition.
4. What is the difference between functional and dysfunctional conflict on a project?
It can be difficult to discern whether a conflict among project members is functional or dysfunctional. The key is how conflict affects project performance, not how individuals feel. Members can be upset and dissatisfied with each other, but as long as the conflict enhances project performance then it is considered functional. Conversely, if the conflict distracts from the project performance by degenerating into personality clashes or creating unnecessary delays in critical project work, then the conflict is considered dysfunctional.
5. When would it be appropriate to hold a formal team-building session on a project?
Formal team-building sessions should be used whenever it is believed that such activities will enhance the performance of the project team. This would especially be true at the beginning of a project when the session would help develop a team identity among a group of strangers. Likewise, team-building activities could be used to assimilate new project members once the project is underway. Devoting time and attention to team building would also be appropriate when the project team is experiencing problems working together or needs to elevate its performance to meet new project demands. The sessions would be useful in identifying and changing dysfunctional behaviour as well as re-energising the team to higher levels of performance. One mistake project managers make is that they resort to formal team-building activities after they realise the team is in trouble. It might be wiser to utilise team-building sessions earlier to encourage collaboration and to prevent small problems from escalating into major problems within the team.
6. What are the unique challenges of managing a virtual project team?
There are many challenges associated with managing a spatially separated, virtual team. Two of the biggest challenges are developing trust within the team and effective communication patterns. People tend to find it difficult to trust someone whom they have met one or two times or not at all. Furthermore, unlike when members work side by side and can readily assess the competence and effort displayed by fellow team members, the actions of distant members are not visible. Finally, physical separation prohibits informal socialising that contributes to trust among participants. Reliance on electronic, as opposed to direct communication, can be problematic. Managers not only have to overcome time zone differences and cross-cultural variations, but they are missing visual cues that contribute to effective communication.
7. What can a project do to avoid some of the pitfalls of a highly cohesive project team?
First, project managers need to be aware that there is a potential downside to a highly cohesive team and be able to recognise the symptoms associated with the pathologies described in the chapter. Second, they can take pre-emptive action to reduce the isolation of the team by encouraging the maintenance of ties with the rest of the organization as well as with other project stakeholders. Third, they can personally reinforce the connection between the project and the mission and policies of the parent organization. They can also encourage functional conflict and discourage the group from developing a ‘holier than thou’ attitude. Finally, they can hold formal team-building sessions to identify and eliminate dysfunctional norms and refocus the team’s attention on project objectives.
Prepared by Dr. John Drexler Jr., Oregon State University
This case provides an opportunity to explore some of the issues surrounding the startup of a project formation team.
1. Critique Brigg’s management of the first meeting. What if anything should she have done differently?
Given the time constraint and late start, Briggs probably accomplished as much as she could in this meeting. At the same time, one might question how the other members felt upon leaving the meeting. First, many of the members seem less than enthusiastic about the project. Second, the members don’t have a good idea about how they are going to accomplish the project and what kind of involvement it will require from them. She should have anticipated the meeting times dilemma and avoided the jousting by simply requesting the schedule information up front.
2. What barriers is she likely to encounter in completing this project?
1. Large task force (14 members)
2. Members not selected based on skill and experience
3. Low or indifferent commitment on the part of some members toward the project
4. Spatially separated
5. Limited, part-time involvement
6. No experience working together on event projects
3. What can she do to overcome these barriers?
1. Break the task force into subgroups around major tasks.
2. Clarify involvement, supplement expertise of team with outside input, delegate carefully
3. Build enthusiasm by personal example, developing a shared vision, and top management support
4. Find a common meeting place, develop e-mail list, create a project web page, establish communication protocols
5. Assess individual availability and assign tasks accordingly
6. Provide strong direction and create opportunities for members to get to know each other.
One of the key issues Briggs has to resolve is how she will use the team to complete the project. One path would be for her to do most of the work and consult the team on important issues. A different path would be to delegate specific tasks to the team (for example, deciding when the celebration should take place, deciding where it should be held) and manage the process. This path would be more consistent with the culture at Kerzner.
4. What should she do between now and the next meeting?
She needs to meet with individual members and get some sense of the kind of contributions they can make to the project both in time and ability. She should test some of her ideas about how to organise the project when talking to members and revise those plans as she acquires new information.
She needs to develop a master plan for the project which includes a list of milestones, a breakdown of major tasks, and how the team will be organised to complete the project. She should seek the advice of people outside the organization who have experience organising such events.
She needs to schedule a longer second meeting to present and revise the master plan. She needs to request an administrative assistant who can handle details. She should persuade Tubbs to attend at least part of the next meeting to communicate the importance of the project to the team members.