Project Practitioners > When Are We a Team?

When Are We a Team?

By Ed Reynolds

Most of the time, we're only a team because we report to the same boss. We help the boss achieve their objectives but we work on different things. How can you make your team more of a team?

The key is finding a way to make everybody depend upon each other for completing the job. In one position, I broke product management into a few co-dependent functions. Core product managers owned product requirements. Alliance managers sought out partners to plug functional holes in our solutions. A third function was communicating core solution value/messages, schedules, etc. to constituents outside the group. Everybody depended on other people in the team to finish the job; we succeeded or failed together.

If you can’t realign job functions, there are other ways to make your team into a team.  Process improvement projects are great ways to team up. In one position, I found our product requirements getting “doctored” and omitted by the development team. I assigned one of my managers to figure out why and how to fix it. He formed a cross-functional team to identify where the leakage was taking place. They built a process to track requirements and priorities from concept to delivery. Sounds fundamental to you product management types but it was a novel concept in a commodity hardware company.

Sometimes you need to fabricate teaming opportunities from whole cloth. Every year, my team at one company did a public service project together. We built homes for Habitat for Humanity, delivered meals for Meals on Wheels, wrapped gifts for a community angel tree. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, as long as you are doing it together to achieve a common goal.

Most importantly, take the opportunity to celebrate as a team. Have lunch together, raise a glass together at the local pub, play softball; have fun together outside the office. Blowing off steam together is therapeutic. Unusual “sports” like bocce and laser tag, where nobody on the team is an expert, promote the best teaming and enjoyment.

You’ll know you’ve succeeded when people seem happy in their work and start hanging out together outside of the office. You’ll know you’ve succeeded when people give credit for success to individuals and take responsibility for failure as a team.

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