Episode 32:  Assemble a Team (of superheros)

A goal of the Project Manager is to create that almighty superhero team that can generate results.  The ideal team would be a group of talented individuals that can overcome obstacles and perform at exemplary levels.  How does a project manager create a superhero team and replicate success from project to project? Let’s take an example from one of the greatest teams ever known.

“There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, so that when we needed them, they could fight the battles that we never could”.  – Nick Fury

Marvel Team

Project Name: The Avengers Initiative

Project Goal: Fight the foe (Loki) that no single superhero could withstand.

S.H.I.E.L.D Director, Nick Furry, assembled together “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”, also known as The Avengers to defeat Loki.  What made the Avengers successful was their super human abilities and stellar fighting skills.  In addition to the Avengers’ extraordinary talents was a common framework that can make any good team a superhero team:

  1. Team members commit to the goal.  The Avengers did not waste time trying to figure out the goal.  That was because it was made clear from the start – save planet Earth from Loki.  It is critical to success, that all team members understand the goal and commit themselves to its success at the start of the project.  When team members do not understand the goal, they will divert and create their own separate goals – some not so valuable.  A team that understands and is committed to the goal will be quicker to identify solutions and deliver results. A powerful way to communicate the project goal to your team is to conduct a project kick-off.  The project kick-off gives team members a chance to hear the desired result from the customer.  In addition, team members can begin to visualize how they fit into achieving the project goals.
  2. Team members express themselves.  With the Avengers, each superhero brought unique skills and talents to the group.  Even the Hulk with obvious anger-management issues could harness it for the good of the team.  A good project manager learns the talents of the individual team members and allows those talents to be expressed in the project.  All team members have a place where they can excel. As a project manager, you can help team members to find that role in the project team.  Use a variety of techniques when planning and executing that will allow different talents to surface.  Use white-board sessions, sticky notes, and other tools to get ideas from team members that may not otherwise speak up in an “open forum”.
  3. Self-Directed Performers. The Avengers didn’t need Nick Fury to direct their every action.  Team members identified the tasks at hand and took it upon themselves to act.  Roles and responsibilities are beneficial in a project, but it is even better to set expectations for team members so they will find out what needs to be done and act accordingly.  This doesn’t mean the team members don’t report back or even discuss possible solutions.  A self-directed team will know when to ask and when to act.

Any project is only as good as the team being assembled.  Remember, as the project manager your ability to engage the team early will improve the projects chance for success.  Some jobs are so big they require more than just one superhero, so work to the best of your team’s abilities and skills.  Most important, establish a common framework early on that can make any good team a superhero team.