In order to ensure the highest level of success for a new project group, it is important to have a basic understand of how that group will operate. This means understanding what kind of group the project staff is, what characteristics of the group are likely to help achieve the project’s goals, and where there is potential for setbacks or losses. A project team like the one recently assembled at Company X can best be described as a cross-functional team. Unlike a command group whose members all report to the same supervisor, the members of this new project staff are selected from different departments. A task force also has this characteristic, but it is usually only assembled to accomplish a specific goal. This new team will routinely be assigned projects by departmental directors. Another interesting characteristic of this team is that it is self-managed, rather than reporting to a specific leader. Self-managed work teams work together to perform the leadership functions that groups need to be effective (George & Jones, 2008).
Rensis Likert (1961) laid out several characteristics of groups that make them highly effective. Several of these characteristics are evident in Company X’s new project team. This team is inter-disciplinary, so it can be expected that group members will assist each when necessary in order to achieve the group’s goals. Similarly, the cross-functional nature of this group motivates each member to communicate effectively. It is understood that other members do not have the benefit of each member’s experience, and may need a more thorough explanation than would be required in a homogeneous group. Finally, this understanding that the group is comprised of individuals with different talents allows each member to feel comfortable making decisions appropriate to their area of expertise. This freedom allows the group to function smoothly, especially if the goals and philosophy of the group are understood by each member (Likert, 1961).
Unfortunately, some characteristics of this group may create problems in the near future. For example, this group has only been together for a very short time and the members have not yet developed a relaxed working relationship with each other. The lack of leadership within the group means the group must work harder to establish an atmosphere that will lead to positive results. An effective leader can often set the tone, and is even more effective if she adheres to those same standards. Finally, in relation to both these points, there has not been sufficient time for a natural leader to emerge from the group (Likert, 1961). The good news, of course, is that these negative characteristics of the Company X project group will dissolve over time. Although it might mean setbacks in the next three months, it will eventually develop into a highly effective group.
George, J. M., & Jones G. R. (2008). Understanding and managing organizational behavior (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Likert, R. (1961). New patterns of management. New York: McGraw-Hill.