Keeping the Teamwork in Project Portfolio Management

Keeping the Teamwork in Project Portfolio Management

by Johnny S

It is naïve to assume that because you have a team of talented people, you inherently have effective teamwork. This idealism is unfortunately, the undoing of so many potentially successful project portfolio management teams. The assumption that because everyone is working towards project, portfolio, and organization success – that teamwork will naturally flourish is a mistake.

Teamwork takes work… There is nothing easy about getting a group of motivated, driven, and passionate people to work together to accomplish goals. Remember, the people you’re working with as project portfolio managers are in these roles because they are goal-oriented. This drive towards goals often draws in people who prefer to work alone or to take on more work than is necessary.

Now try and put all these people together in one team – yes, exactly soon the team breaks down, teamwork is nonexistent, goals are being missed, people stop communicating and collaborating, and eventually the project portfolio collapses. But – don’t despair.

You can make teamwork happen and flourish in project portfolio management. As we have already stated – it’s not easy – but it’s 100 per cent possible and absolutely necessary. To coin a phrase from the sports world – it all comes down to how badly you want it.

We’ve put together some key fundamentals to teamwork that are imperative to you and your team realizing true project portfolio management teamwork.  At first glance these appear to be obvious – making it so easy for even the best managers and communicators to overlook the value in these fundamentals.

Measurable Goals

Measurable goals are the carrot-on-the-stick for the people working with you in project portfolio management. They want to see their teams and projects reach their milestones and goals.

To facilitate this drive to goal-centric output, make sure your team and project managers know what they’re actually supposed to be working towards. For example, a fuzzy goal of “have all projects completed by year end”, is not going to work.

Sit down with your project portfolio management team and define clearly measurable (and attainable) goals for each project. Know who is tasked with each deliverable in the project and how these contribute to the goal milestones. Discuss strategies for when the project becomes delayed or over-budget. Make sure everyone in the team has both team and individual goals, these keep everyone personally motivated and invested in the success of the team.

Clearly Defined Roles and Responsibilities

Tied directly to measurable goals, make sure everyone on the team knows why they are there. It’s important that each team member respect the abilities and roles of their colleagues as well knowing how and why the bring value to the team. This understanding helps to facilitate more open collaboration and trust through-out your team.

When building your team, take into consideration the unique attributes of each person and how to bring the out the best in each person. As your team matures and grows together, new roles and responsibilities will emerge – just as the goals of your overall project portfolio morph and evolve. Remember to maintain fluidity in the roles and responsibilities of your team.

Security and Confidence

The more personally secure each team member feels, the better chances there are for professional and personal risk taking. It’s in this risk-taking that the team is able to grow and accomplish its goals. Your team needs to know that they are safe to speak their minds, to suggest out-of-the-box thinking, and to fail.

In knowing this, people are more likely to trust and support one another – enabling better communication and collaboration. A team atmosphere of security and confidence gives each team member the opportunity to truly relax and focus on the goals and responsibilities at hand. The focus is moved away from job security to organizational and team success.

Honest Leadership

The pressure is on you – the leader to create, massage, and grow teamwork across your project portfolio management group. The team is only as strong as the leader, so you have to make sure you’re the right person to lead the team.

It’s up to you to establish team goals, to manage the people on your team, to identify problems, to be a resource for team members, and to keep the team cohesive and content. Keep in mind some keys to successful project portfolio management, including open communication, cross-team collaboration, big and small picture analysis, and resource management – and how these can support you in your leadership role.

Tool and Software Support

Once your team has identified how it wants to work together, it’s important the team has the right tools and software to enable this. Don’t expect your team to be working within the norms of agile project portfolio management methodologies with outdated spreadsheets and email as their primary tools.

You want your team to communicate freely, to share issues and blockers, to provide up-to-date visual break-downs of resource break-downs, to understand the business intelligence, and to share detailed insights into the overall success rate.

This cannot be accomplished with guesswork. Give your team the project portfolio management tools that make it easy for them to see and understand their goals, roles, successes, failures, and resource demands.

Teamwork Can and Does Happen

No, it’s not easy – but it’s necessary. While there is no “me” in teamwork, it’s important that each individual member of your project portfolio management team knows why she is there, how she makes a difference, and how she fits into the big picture. Communicate openly and freely – give your colleagues the professional and emotional support they need to flourish and succeed.

The team is only as strong as its leader – lead by example – speak up when you’re not sure or have questions. It’s amazing what trust and collaboration can do to keep the teamwork happening in project portfolio management.

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