Team Building Techniques – 5 Stages

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When I think of team building techniques, the one place I didn’t think to look was the PMBOK®. In chapter 9, specifically 9.3.2, the PMBOK details Tools and Techniques of Developing Project Teams. For those out there studying for the PMP®, this might be a good time to write this down or print the blog post.

The PMBOK lists 5 stages of development that teams may go through, usually occurring in order.  What PMBOK lists is relatively academic.  It won’t actually help you with team building.

Those stages, with the exception of the last are based on the Tuckman ladder[1].  Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing. It’s a model of group development, first proposed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965, who maintained that these phases are all necessary and inevitable in order for the team to grow, to face up to challenges, to tackle problems, to find solutions, to plan work, and to deliver results.

Why PMI found it necessary to add the last one, I can’t tell you.  But, in the event you think it may appear on the PMP exam, here is what PMI thinks you should know.

Forming. This phase is where the team meets and learns about the project and what their formal roles and responsibilities are. Team members tend to be independent and not open in this phase.

Storming. During this phase, the team begins to address the project work, technical decisions, and the project management approach.  If team members are not collaborative and open to differing ideas and perspectives the environment can be destructive.

Norming. In the norming phase, team members begin to work together and adjust work habits and behaviors that support the team. The team begins to trust each other.

Performing. Teams that reach the performing stage function as a well-organized unit.  They are interdependent and work through issues smoothly and effectively.

Adjourning. In the adjourning phase, the team completes the work and moves on from the project.

The PMBOK concludes by saying a Project Manager should have a good understanding of team dynamics in order to move their team members through all stages in an effective manner.

Two stages I think they missed include  Empowering and Supporting.  If PMI can insert Adjourning into this list, with the sounds of One of these things is not like the others in my head, I think I can add my two stages.  Still, if you want to pass the PMP, perhaps you should just stick to their list.

[1] Tuckman, Bruce, 1965. Developmental Sequence in Small Groups. Psychological Bulletin No. 63. Bethesda, MD: Naval Medical Research Institute.
Image source: Orange Country Register

Performance assessment and drinking Kool-Aid

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This last week, I provided a performance assessment to a subordinate.  Though I understand the necessity, I’m not crazy about doing them.  Regardless of how objective the scoring criteria is, there always seem to be someone who sees the cloud in the silver lining.  The first question I get asked is, “why do we have to do this”?  Let me break out my trusty PMBoK, as if I need the excuse.

Section 9.4.1.3 (page 237) of the PMBoK, it states

the project management team makes ongoing formal or informal assessments of the project team’s performance.  By continually assessing the team’s performance, actions can be taken to resolve issues, modify communication, address conflict, and improve team interaction.

Though I try to be fair and balanced, I understand I sometimes must make uncomfortable and unpopular decisions.  When I completed my scoring, the results were mixed.  In some areas, this person exceeded my expectations.  In others, they fell short.  It was interesting to see the incited response.  “Why didn’t I get a perfect 10!!?”  I calmly responded, because nobody is a perfect 10.  That’s kind of a half-truth.  I do believe in outliers.  But, this person is no outlier.

I went over to the white board and drew a bell curve.  I then tried to explain that my scoring put her roughly in the middle.  There were areas which needed improvement and those were the facts.  Why do some people feel entitled to getting credit when credit is not due?  A percentage of people will exceed and a percentage will fail.  It’s simple probability distribution.

What I didn’t understand was she completely ignored the good rating and focused on the bad.  When push comes to shove, I’m the one doing the assessment.  I do believe I should explain myself.  But after that, people need to focus on themselves.  When I get assessed, I expect honest feedback, so I can do a better job.  There is always room for improvement.  Giving me 10 out of 10 across the board may make me feel good momentarily, but then what?

Don’t think I’m cold and calculated when it comes to dealing with people.  I would love to give everyone good scores, but then what would that say about me?  You’d say I’ve been drinking some strange Kool-Aid.  When people are doing a good job, I tell them.  If people are doing a poor job, I tell them.  If you don’t want an honest answer, don’t ask the question.

Does anyone out there have a recommendation for an objective (versus subjective) performance scoring?  What about ideas to motivate those who do not motivate easily?