Many project offices divide members into sub-teams to oversee individual projects or sometimes to tackle internal initiatives—process improvement efforts, elimination of wasteful practices, development of new project management training standards, etc. The efficiencies often found in these smaller groups can be significant, and the good news is that they don’t need to stay in the confines of the sub-team structure. With a little planning and some targeted effort, project offices can devise effective strategies to bring the benefits of the sub-team environment to the entire Project Team.
Benefit: Tighter coordination among team members.
A primary advantage of creating sub-teams is the ability within those smaller groups to plan activities and coordinate communications more closely. The fewer people that are involved, and the more focus a limited number of members is able to put on a specific issue, the better organized an even complex list of tasks can be. Maintaining information sharing across a smaller team is also more efficient in many cases, as new data can be quickly distributed and questions or concerns handled.
Build on this: Look at how information sharing—whether it’s the transfer of large amounts of data or person-to-person communications—happens in those small-scale environments. Is there a way to implement a similar solution that will be effective on a wider scale? Technology platforms may be the answer, or simply devising a more intuitive communication flow might do the trick.
Benefit: Better knowledge of team members’ niche skills and expertise.
As project management team members work together to achieve project success, they’ll also become acquainted with the various backgrounds each person brings to the table. Learning where the sub-team has strengths and where niche skills exist makes the group more agile and efficient. Cost savings may be found in new places because previously unknown expertise is now available in-house, and innovative solutions to long-standing problems sometimes appear when the sub-team has a wider background to pull from.
Build on this: Across the entire Project Team, the depth of knowledge is probably far more vast than first assumed. If your project office uses an intranet or similar platform to store data, consider adding a section for skills and expertise. Encourage team members to submit their own information, so even those competencies that may not be apparent to inquire about can be included. A searchable database will enable everyone in the group to find an expert when they need expertise on an uncommon or niche-related issue.
Benefit: Development of better and more wide-ranging communication skills.
If there’s a layer of distance among the project office’s team members—typically an issue in very large Project Teams more so than smaller teams—it quickly melts away when the larger group is winnowed down into sub-groups. This phenomenon isn’t related to physical distance. Instead, it’s a tendency of the various disciplines in big project offices to segregate themselves from those functions they work with only occasionally. As sub-teams come together to accomplish their objectives, a greater number of personal interactions often follow. The resulting synergy gives team members a chance to learn how to communicate with a broader range of people they may not otherwise talk with on a regular basis.
Build on this: Consider providing more opportunities for the Project Team’s members to connect in ways other than by e-mail (face-to-face if at all possible or via video conference if not). Scheduling agenda items that bring disparate functions together during large meetings is one good option, such as to present project data or lead a discussion on proposals to select a new vendor. The various disciplines will then discover workable strategies to bridge any existing communication roadblocks.