Designing Teams as if People Mattered

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

Projects are all about people. While this seems an enormously obvious assertion, it astonishingly gets overlooked a great deal of the time. While homo economicus has long been discredited and has proven far less rational than many philosophers would like, we still keep the poor guy around with his nose to the grindstone. People are not universally interchangeable, and they cannot be expected to behave within logical, predictable boundaries of narrow self-interest, but we keep on pretending that they do. Yes, life would be so much easier if they would, but wishing has never actually made it so.

Last month’s column asked the question of whether personal and individual preferences should be taken into consideration in the face of how individual project managers approach their role. This month, we cast the net a little bit wider and pull the entire project team into the discussion.

How we function in a team is critical. The whole reason that teams exist is that we can’t be successful on our own; we need some help, we need specialist expertise and we need people to contribute to the heavy lifting. Put multiple people in a room together, however, and the challenges of communication, collaboration, confusion and conflict quickly come to the fore.

Of course, how we build teams is a part of the problem. The criteria for selecting team members are predictably …

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"Only those who have been in the frying pan are really qualified to talk about the heat."

- Winston Churchill

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