Managing and Leading a group project.

In today’s modern business world there is no escaping the reality of teamwork. The ability to work efficiently and effectively within a team is an essential factor in a modern working environment. Teams in today’s business settings consistently outperform individuals acting alone in the completion of complex tasks, especially those which require multiple skills, experience and opinions. More and more organisations require teams who can use their knowledge and experience to deal with often complex tasks and who can pull together their collective know how to achieve group success.

Realistically with the vast amount of knowledge available with a business setting no one individual can know everything. Professional workplaces need teams that can collaborate in decision making and problem solving for the greater good of the overall project and not just the personal achievement of each member. O Grady (2008) acknowledges that one of the main reasons why the use of teams to carry out work is now so widespread is because members can bring with them differing strengths, skills, education, knowledge, personality traits and experience.

The effect of this is that the combination of these individuals as a group can achieve far more than the sum of their individual endeavours. While employers look to recruit employees with the most suitable characteristics for the job on offer, they also take into account the fact that most work is done in co-operation with fellow workers and a management hierarchy. Employees must be able to fit into a team, function as a member of a team, and do tasks that are required of them while also being able to get along with their co-workers.

They are required to assist in planning new projects or in some cases join existing teams and will be expected to fit in and become a team player. PMI (2004) surmises that “Teamwork is crucial to project management. We must work in teams and we must build teams in such a way that team members can and will work together co-operatively to accomplish the work of the project”.

It is stated that while it is widely accepted that the establishment of a project involves both project planning and project team building, it is also recognized that even the best of plans can be sabotaged by a poorly developed team. For a project to be successful planning alone is not enough. Establishment of a team that is well developed, effective and committed to a shared goal is vital for project success. (Thomas, M. et al. 2008.).

Within a formal working environment, groups are characterised as having a shared sense of identity and a common goal. The members of a group project have a shared purpose which unites them and they have a sense of belonging within the team. They are individuals who have been brought together for a particular purpose and they have a reason for being together. To progress in their goal they must now endeavour to govern their individual behaviours and set in place a group structure.

The members must communicate, follow acceptable rules of behaviour and develop roles in order to create structure within the group. (O’ Grady, M. 2008) reiterates that “a collection of individuals does not necessarily make up a group. Individuals will only form a group if they are co-operating towards a common purpose, have a sense of group identity, some kind of structure and are able and willing to communicate with each other”. Tuckman and Jensen (1977) suggest that groups develop in a five stage life cycle- Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning. They submit that this cycle can be applied to most groups especially in a formal setting.

In the “Forming” stage of development, team members attempt to assess each other’s personalities and motivations whilst regulating their own behaviour.

As personal acceptance and confidence grow they begin to tentatively communicate with each other. In this phase there will be a need for relationship development but for the project to move forward the team will now need leadership to provide direction and to identify and understand its purpose. The “Storming” phase of development can often be the most problematic for team members. The team will inevitably be faced with disagreement, conflicts of interest and contrasting characters within the team.

The group will have to overcome individual grievances and conform for the groups greater good. During the “Norming” stage the group arrives at acceptable standards of behaviour and the roles each member will play within the project. (Thomas. M et al. 2008) explains that it is during this stage the team will be faced with the challenges of creating cohesion and unity. They point to the roles played by each member and the need for these roles to be understood and realistic in their expectations. It is at this point the team commitment to its purpose is established.

Once the “Norming” stage has been successfully navigated the group can focus its energy to getting on with the job at hand. They can work collectively, communicate more easily and utilize their own skills to contribute to a better-rounded project. They face the need for continued commitment, improvement, motivation and results. The final stage of “Adjourning” refers to the end of the group’s life cycle when it has completed its task. The effect of group dynamics on its members is to increase members’ awareness of their own thinking, perceptions, and behaviours.

Moriarty and Buckley (2003) propose that to utilize team diversity, members must be equipped with self-awareness to understand their function within team processes. The key to group effectiveness is bringing together a group of individuals who are capable, diverse, and skilled and who complement each other in their collective roles and who can work together with others to achieve goals that would be impossible without the co-operation involved. It takes time, planning and direction to build an effective team however even the most effective team cannot overcome a poor project plan or a lack of leadership and management of group processes.