Improve Project and Focus Work Team Performance

By Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer and Systems Guy, Great Systems

All organizations have one, or both, of these team types. Improve project and focus work team performance by managing team dynamics, meeting and project development processes, and between-meeting activities. It is common for FOCUS teams to have multiple projects active at one time. However, different team members will act as project leads. PROJECT work teams focus more on singular change efforts that are often much larger in scope and involve more external stakeholders.

Jump to Focus Work Team Characteristics and Challenges

Follow this link to learn more about PROCESS work team characteristics, or what some people call natural work groups.

How Effective Are Your PROJECT Work Teams?

All organizations have at least one project work team. Project teams stay intact until the team finishes their project. In some cases, the team remains intact to work on a new project, as with some Quality Circle or Kaizen Team processes. Examples of project work teams include process improvement teams, kaizen teams, tiger teams, quality circles, and engineering teams. Here are some example project work team characteristics:

PROJECT Work Team Characteristics

A project work team is a cross-functional group of employees that meets regularly to:

  • Support one or more of the organizational or location objectives via project implementation
  • Carry a project through from start to finish, using a disciplined development approach
  • Evaluate action plan and item success to-date, and make adjustments as needed
  • Proactively attack key project needs that extend into two or more work groups

The group’s makeup (size, membership, and stability) is primarily influenced by:

  • The nature of the given project or objective
  • The degree of cross functional representation required
  • Individual abilities to actively participate in the project’s completion
  • Limiting the group’s size to ten or less people for problem solving effectiveness
  • The type of objective work required — info sharing versus problem solving
  • Providing departmental representation without departmental overload
  • The urgency for project implementation

Meeting frequency, location, and timing options include:

  • Hold regular progress meetings until the objective is complete
  • Meeting lengths are kept to around one hour or less
  • Get together every one or two weeks, depending on the nature of and need for the project (a ‘kaizen event’ project team might do all of their work over 2-3 days)
  • Limit the active number of project teams in process at any given time
  • Normally meet virtually or in the designated available locations

Skills desired of project work team members would include:

  • A desire for and understanding of continuous improvement and quality
  • A basic awareness of communication, problem solving, decision making, and project development tools
  • Shared responsibility in the content, impact, and success of the project
  • An understanding of how the project will impact the profitability of the organization
  • The ability to spend time on project development tasks between meetings

PROJECT Work Team Changes and Challenges

Over time, as the project work team matures, possible changes will include:

  • A shift from management member dominance to more support / hourly representation
  • Faster and more effective completion of the project development cycle
  • Projects increase in complexity and become more process-focused
  • An increase in active project teams in action at a given time as resources increase

Possible constraints to project work team and meeting effectiveness include:

  • Requiring a given person to lead, or to be a member of, too many teams
  • Failing to have a given department actively represented
  • Not having the necessary support information for prompt decision making
  • Failing to regularly complete action items away from the meeting
  • Lack of effective team leadership, in meetings and between meetings
  • Not developing and following a systematic plan for project completion

Back to the top of the Project Work Team section

How Effective are Your FOCUS Work Teams?

All organizations have at least one focus work team. In some cases, focus teams are known as cross-functional teams. Focus teams meet regularly to address key organizational focus areas. For example, the senior leadership group is a focus team that meets on a regular basis. Committees and task forces are other examples.

Focus work teams exist to tackle a specific problem or perform a specific task. Their representation includes different functional disciplines or process segments. In some cases, focus teams form on an ad hoc basis. Other examples of common focus work teams include safety, training, and recognition committees. Also, customer satisfaction teams, waste reduction teams, planning teams, and leadership teams may exist.

Focus work team performance is more difficult to measure. This is due to the cross-functional membership and variability in team process types. In many cases, focus team members do not even track the amount of time they invest in the one, or more, focus teams they are on. However, significant savings and team performance gains can be made when leaders optimize their use of focus work teams and project work teams.

LEARN MORE: Buy my “Facilitating and Leading Teams” workshop workbook on Amazon.com!

FOCUS Work Team Meeting and Member Characteristics

Here are some example FOCUS work team characteristics:

The group’s makeup (size, membership, and stability) is primarily influenced by:

  • The type of key performance area being supported (safety, cost, quality, growth)
  • The degree of cross functional representation required
  • The ability of each individual to actively participate in the group’s work
  • A recommended group size limit of ten or less people for meeting effectiveness
  • The type of focus teamwork required — info sharing versus problem solving
  • Balancing departmental representation with possible departmental overload
  • The urgency for key performance area improvement

Focus work team meeting frequency, location, and timing options include:

  • Meeting regularly throughout the operating year
  • Meeting lengths being around one hour or less
  • Getting together every one or two weeks, depending on the urgency for performance improvement
  • Normally meeting in the standard locations that are available

 Skills desired of focus work team members would include:

  • A desire for, and understanding of, continuous improvement and quality
  • A basic awareness of communication, problem solving, decision making, and project development tools
  • Shared responsibility in the content, impact, and success of the team’s key performance indicators
  • An understanding of how key performance areas impact the profitability of the organization
  • The ability to spend time on system enhancement tasks between meetings

FOCUS Work Team Changes and Challenges

Over time, as the focus work team matures, possible changes will include:

  • A shift from management member dominance to more support / hourly representation
  • Cycles of improvement for the work systems the group is responsible for
  • A shift in meeting frequency as organizational priorities change
  • Delegation of system improvement efforts to project teams

 Possible constraints to focus work team and meeting effectiveness include:

  • Requiring a given person to lead or to be on too many teams
  • Failing to have a given department actively represented
  • Not having the necessary performance data or support information for prompt decision making
  • Failing to regularly complete assigned action items between meetings
  • Lack of effective team leadership
  • Not developing and following a systematic plan for system improvement over time

Would you like to improve project and focus work team performance?

I work with leaders virtually to measure and improve the key work system designs that drive human performance in their organizations. You can click here to explore how to redesign your work team structure to drive operational excellence. An effective team infrastructure represents a key feature found in high performance organizations. However, leaders also need other key work system design elements.

If you have interest in my VIRTUAL work systems assessment process, please send me an email.

Keep improving! Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer and Systems Guy, Great Systems

WEBSITE: greatsystems.com            EMAIL: kevin@greatsystems.com

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