Project LeadershipProject Management

What Makes a High-Performing Project Team?

What is the secret sauce, that doctored up jar of Ragú that turns a team into a lean, mean project-completing machine? In a post for the PM Perspectives Blog, project leadership coach Susanne Madsen pinpoints the factors that optimize team effectiveness. If your team can embody these principles, you will be savoring the taste of success for years to come.

A Recipe for Productivity

Madsen says groups like MIT and Google have not found correlations between project performance and things like team members socializing outside of work or having flexible hours. Instead, what matters to performance are team communication patterns, namely, if all team members are contributing to decision-making. The high-performing teams are the ones where everyone speaks with about the same frequency. If there are some quiet people on the team, a project leader should actively work to engage them and make their voices heard.

Ideal teams tend to be less than 10 people in size, likely because it is easier to keep up high-quality communication between smaller teams. Likewise, the more often people can communicate face-to-face, the better for the value of the communication. In any case, project leaders will best facilitate communication when they have created a safe environment. This simply means that no one is worried about being judged when they speak up. In order to achieve this basic “intimacy,” consider sharing a work-related story about how you made a project mistake. By sharing such details, you can encourage team members to look out for each other and be mindful of each other’s vulnerabilities.

Moving forward, just heed this warning from Madsen:

Those leaders who perceive themselves as strong, decisive and fast-moving don’t always realise that they cut off the team in the process because they are not sufficiently inclusive. What we have just seen from the research is that high performance happens when all team members play along. This requires the team leader to sometimes slow down and take the council of all members of the team instead of rushing to implement a decision, which only a few contributed to.

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