The Team That Skipped the Storming Stage

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PMBOK 5th Edition - Hindi Translation Team

The PMBOK 5th Edition Hindi Translation Team Gets Recognition

This piece continues my previous blog posts, “The Techniques That Don't Resolve Conflict” and “The Only Technique That Resolves Conflicts,” which looked at why no technique other than collaborate/problem-solve truly resolves a conflict.

Researcher Bruce Tuckman suggested that a project team generally goes through the forming, storming, norming and performing stages. In this post, I will discuss a team that skipped the storming stage—or, rather, they managed their conflicts so well that they spent most of their time in the performing stage. Fortunately, I was part of the team.

The Project

PMI India took up the task to provide the PMBOK Guide—Fifth Edition in Hindi to promote project management in Hindi-speaking regions. The project initiated in February 2013 and aimed to finish by August 2013 so the new Hindi version could launch at the PMI National Conference in Delhi in September 2013. We had only six months, and the team was yet to be recruited. We had to onboard a translator and form a Translation Verification Committee (TVC) of subject matter experts who were native Hindi speakers with sound knowledge of the PMBOK Guide—Fifth Edition.    

PMBOK 5th Edition Hindi VersionThe cover of the PMBOK 5th Edition Hindi version.

The Team

PMI India already had some volunteers for the TVC. We selected a few names and started interviewing. We also tried to persuade people who were part of the TVC for the Fourth Edition to participate. We intended to select eight people for the TVC, but we settled for seven.  

Challenges

  1. The challenges were many, and the short timeframe was the first. We had to complete the project by 31 August.
  2. The translation had to be simple, easy to read and use the language of common people.
  3. Another big challenge was to find the equivalent word in Hindi. It is very common to find many Hindi equivalents for one English word, but none of them exactly matches the meaning. So you have as many opinions as people on the team. This was the most time-consuming challenge. If not addressed appropriately, it could cause serious delays.
  4. Committee members came from four different cities and could not meet frequently. All had full-time jobs and would verify the translation after work.
  5. One translator was the only team member hired professionally. His pace set the pace of the whole team.

Facing and Overcoming the Challenges

After finalizing the team, the kickoff meeting happened on 31 March, 2013. So we had only five months to complete the job. We met the first time to understand each other and set the agenda. We prepared a schedule with our best estimates. It turned out those estimates had us completing the project in October! That was not acceptable, but we decided to start work on the first three chapters and revisit the schedule later. We decided on one face-to-face meeting per month on a weekend and to connect via a conference call in between.

In the first call, we could see what we feared most. There was a lot of discussion to select the right word and sentences, and we couldn’t make much progress.

At the second meeting, the target was to finalize Chapter 1 on the first day, but again there was a lot of discussion about choosing the right word, and we could not complete the chapter. It was a matter of concern now.

We decided to set ground rules:

  1. Based on the skills demonstrated so far, we made two people the final word on Hindi and two others the final word on the PMBOK Guide. In the case of long debates about these two issues, the group would accept what these people decided.
  2. If we could not conclude a word debate in a specified time, we would have an online vote, with everyone voting within three days. The word that had the most votes would be selected with no further discussion.
  3. To maintain quality, we decided on two levels of review. Every team member would do a first-level of review and pass it on to a specified person for the second level of review.
  4. As the project was taking longer than expected, we decided to appoint one of the TVC members to help the translator fast-track the work.

At the third meeting, we lost one of the team members. Before the fourth meeting, another was transferred out of the country, reducing his availability significantly. Now the only way to complete the project before 31 August was to take less time in review. The only way to do that without losing quality was to keep our conflicts in control. Forming the above rules turned out to be the most critical factor. Obeying these rules reduced unnecessary discussion and considerably improved the pace. We completed all the activities by 27 August, leaving two weeks for printing and publishing.

Conclusion

Working on this project, I closely observed how a team can manage its conflicts and focus on delivering the work. The following five factors were most critical:

  1. Form ground rules based on the project’s objectives
  2. Identify skills in the team and assign responsibilities accordingly.
  3. Build a decision-making tool with consensus
  4. Build a process that can deliver quality
  5. Follow the rules with discipline

Do you have a similar experience or opposite to it? Please share your view.

 

Posted by Vivek Prakash on: October 03, 2015 01:10 PM | Permalink

Comments (22)

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Congratulations, that's a great success story. Thanks for sharing.

Great team work. It's really a difficult thing to translate jargon and technical terms appropriately.

Thanks for posting this, I was part of this conference as a delegate and I heard Raj Kaladi speak about challenges teams faced while translating PMBOK. Splendid piece of work indeed.

Great write-up Vivek. Love to hear a success story. I''ve been on teams like this as well where we didn''t really get into the storming phase--just worked together towards the goal. (I''ve also been on teams that stormed like a hurricane!).

I think the 5 points you mentioned are key to successes like this, but I have a theory that there is another component as well--the maturity, competency, and experience level of the members. If the team members have a lot of experience working on teams, the whole process seems to go smoother. A true project professional has been through it all many times before, and (hopefully) has developed more "give and take" as well as focus getting the job done rather than fighting over methodologies, personalities, or position.

Friends, Thank you very much for your comments and appreciating the efforts.

@Bruce - I agree, team members' experience and maturity make a lot of difference. I too have been part of the teams who spent most of their time storming. Those were the learning experience to understand why people do what they do.

Hello Vivek,

Excellent work and effort. THIS is what I call a good example ot teamwork.
Thanks for sharing.
Regards,
Paco



I believe we missed one of the technical problem we faced due to s/w used and some of changes which could have been done easily look long to implement.

Ari-IIPM
Hello,
A team without a storming stage is not a team at all.
It''s perhaps a one-man show where one man ( or woman) has the highest authority and others subtly yield to his or her expert power. A team of equals or near-equals or unknowns formed from different domains will get into storming stage and then norming stage to get the synergistic output when they enter performing stage.
Conflicts within team members during storming stage is good for the team and the project, if managed well. I am sorry this team missed that opportunity.
The team must have missed creativity from team members due to subtle or silent cooperation or demotivated to challenge the target / goal. Bovine cooperation can connotate a huge inequality in the positions or composition or powers of the team members.
No fun working in presumably a single-man team.



Hello,
A team without a storming stage is not a team at all.
It''s perhaps a one-man show where one man ( or woman) has the highest authority and others subtly yield to his or her expert power. A team of equals or near-equals or unknowns formed from different domains will get into storming stage and then norming stage to get the synergistic output when they enter performing stage.
Conflicts within team members during storming stage is good for the team and the project, if managed well. I am sorry this team missed that opportunity.
The team must have missed creativity from team members due to subtle or silent cooperation or demotivated to challenge the target / goal. Bovine cooperation can connotate a huge inequality in the positions or composition or powers of the team members.
No fun working in presumably a single-man team.

Hello Ondiappan,
Nice to see an opposing view--maybe you and I are "storming" now ;-). I have actually had this discussion a number of times, and I'm well aware that there are different views, different opinions, and different experiences. So I can appreciate and respect yours.

But I have to say that even Tuckman, when he came up with this model in the 1960's admitted that the maturity of the team members was a very important key to the length and severity of this stage. Ask yourself, is it not possible that a mature team can simply expect, welcome, and discuss differences of opinion? Is it not possible that each member has the maturity and experience to accept the goal of the team as more important than their personal opinions? Is it not possible that the members have enough of a sense of self-worth that they don't really feel the need to jockey for position, and can simply calmly defend their position the way they would in any respectful situation? Is this storming? Perhaps, but it doesn't feel like storming--it feels a lot more like performing.

I admit that there are situations where a lack of storming is caused by one member dominating the other members, but it's a big world, and no two situations are the same. I have been in mature teams in many locations (the Far East, Europe, South America, and North America) where the members had respect for the process,parameters, and other team members of the project and simply worked together to make it happen. Does this mean there were no strong opinions or disagreements? Absolutely not. But they were handled more in the manner of a mature discussion and a respect for the decision making protocols of the team. To suggest that a team working like this is "demotivated", has "missed creativity", or is engaged in "bovine cooperation" is demeaning and disingenuous.

The teams I have worked on that skipped the storming stage were made up of high-level individuals who were brilliant, accomplished, and very, very experienced. Each of them was a powerhouse in their own right. Each of them seemed to be proud to be associated with the project and with each other. There was a high level of competency, professionalism and negotiating skill. Opinions were strongly held, but the projects were well structured, and project protocols for decision making ruled--not merely through a particular stage, but through the duration of the project.

I hope that you get an opportunity to experience a team that just does it's job (performs) from day one for yourself someday. I can affirm that they do exist. This type of team can be very functional. In my experience with this type of group, we met all the criteria of the various projects within project parameters of budget, time, and quality and parted ways as friends and with respect for each other.

So Ondiappan, whether you and I ever can agree on this, at least in the instances that I am remembering, the stakeholders were happy with the deliverables. I think even Tuckman would agree: "What more could you ask?"

Hi Bruce,
Thanks for the detailed reply.

However, if you read the article again, you can find lots of outputs out of "storming sage" that had actually subtly taken place within the team.

For example, "establishing ground rules", "a team member suddenly not available", "follow the rules with discipline" ( that means tumultuous situation was prevailing before) etc.

Moreover, since it's is translation project, the translator, being the SME, set the pace and his/her pace set the pace of the rest. A case of TOC, the weakest link deciding the performance of the entire team. That 's it. There was literally "no team of equals", rather it was a group of " leader (SME) vs silent followers".



We thought the job may be boring and don't know what we will face when people from different corners are participating.
But...Some marriages are perfect one and this was one of the case.
When Vivek say skip, which means the phase was negligible.
Hope this explain well how well we did gel and still a team connected as PMI-TVC Friends.

Cheers!!!

Hi Ondiappan,

You have brought up entirely different perspective. I never thought from this angle. Appreciate your view point. What do you suggest in this situation? What would we have done better?


Hi Vivek,

You could have injected "differences" in the team mix to have enjoyed the creativity / synergy due to the differences in the team, which generally is noticed during norming after storming.

Differences in culture, educational background, different domain experiences, an expert from publishing group, SMEs in scheduling and risk management and or agile practices etc would have helped with better ideas and enhanced sanctification.

Please see The Five Man Army movie and just a five-men team face an army on the other side and still win in the end because of their creative / synergistic performance.

Respecting the differences, sinking egos, and capitalizing on the differences are the signs of effective team management.


Hi Ondiappan,

Thanks for your suggestions. I appreciate. You said creativity due to differences in team and capitalizing on differences. Is it some thing like we made 2 people as final word for Hindi and 2 people for PMBOK and one person to help translator as they showed expertise in these areas?

The Five Man Army is a great stuff. I remember another movie "12 Angry Men" in this context that gave me good understand how you can negotiate with people. One person who himself was not sure about his own opinion, not only firmed up his opinion but also turned other 11 on his side.

nice article. I think the most important PM task for creating a good team is spend time for understanding the potentialities weakness and character of each member. only in this manner will be possible to "take" the best from each person and allow the same to contribute to their full potential

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