The Imposed Team Problem

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As the theory goes, a project manager is selected for a job and then allowed to gather a team of his or her own choosing. But in practice, teams are often chosen without consulting the manager.

You may find out you already have a team when you receive your assignment. Perhaps the executive giving you the job assumes that the team should be chosen by someone at his or her level. The motive may be a worthwhile one. For example, since team members are usually drawn from a number of departments, the vice president giving you the job may believe it will be easier for you to get cooperation from other managers when all assignments come from the top. But an imposed team poses a number of problems for you as project manager.

If you are given an assignment and team members, without the opportunity to become involved in the selection, you are starting out at a clear disadvantage. Unfortunately, you might find yourself in this situation for one or more projects. For example, when a vice president names you as leader and assigns several people from a number of departments to work with you, there is no guarantee that the team will be the right one for the job or that the team members' managers will be pleased with the decision.

In some cases, a team is composed, not of the most capable people in the organization, but of the most available. Employees whose work is highly valued may be so much in demand that they simply aren't available, to you or to anyone else except their department manager. So by elimination, the imposed team could consist of the least capable people or of those who have not yet proved valuable as team players.

To solve the problems of having a team imposed on you, consider the idea shown in Figure 3-1 and explained here:

1. Suggest a different approach. Simply complaining about the way project teams are put together in your organization may not lead to a better idea. It's much more effective to offer a solution that makes sense to top management. If they recognize the value of allowing project managers to choose their own teams, they will be more likely to allow you to take part in team selection.

igure 3-1 Guidelines: imposed teams.

2. Do your best with what you are given. Even after suggeting a more sensible approach, you may still end up with an imposed team. But you still have the assignment. Do your best to achieve your project goals, even if your team is incomplete. You may later be able to make your best argument to management based on a track record of past projects; it will be better for all concerned if you are able to complete a project to expectations, even with a team you did not choose.

3. Give team members the chance to excel. Just because a team is imposed does not always mean its members are incapable of performing well. Give each team member the chance to do his or her best work; you may be very pleased with the results. In some cases, an employee whose performance has been substandard or untried may be waiting for the opportunity you can offer through the project.

4. Request team members who work out well. Learn from your own experience. If a team member has already performed well on one of your projects, request him or her for your current project. Even if your boss doesn't go along with the idea of allowing you to pick your own team, you still may be able to influence the team selection somewhat by stating your preferences.

5. Ask to take part in the selection process. You may not have the absolute right to choose your own team, but you can ask to be at least involved in making the selection. Since you are the one who will be expected to complete the project successfully, you should make this point: The team itself is critical to the project; therefore, you, as project manager, should be included in the selection process.

6. Suggest that department managers be involved as well. There are other managers who should be brought in and consulted when a team is selected: the managers of each team member's department. You can make a number of good arguments for this idea: First, the managers will have to get by with less help for the amount of time you'll need to use their employees; second, they are in the best position to know who is qualified to help you with your project; third, involving them at the start paves the way for a better working relationship between you and them. If each manager is consulted beforehand, even only as a courtesy, your job will be that much easier.

In a more enlightened business environment, management will give you a project assignment and then ask you to put together a team. But you may still have certain restricitons. For example, you probably won't be allowed to recruit anyone you want from any department. It's more likely that you will be free to use people from your own department and also to request help from others—but subject to approval both from the top and from the managers of the other departments.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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