Laptop on a desk and pencil pot

Villanova Friday, Week 6: Team Productivity

This week I had two weeks of lectures to listen to on the Maximizing IS/IT Team Effectiveness course I am taking with Villanova University. Given a busy day job, this was a challenge. So much for my week off last week.

This week it has been all about managing teams in the most effective way. We covered how to deal with resistance. The lecturer explained it like this:

If you have to tell someone something more than 3 times, it is not ignorance, it’s resistance.

She said that if we as managers are dealing with ignorance, we can ‘teach’ our way out of the problem. But if we are facing resistance, we need another set of tools to deal with project team members.

Dealing with resistance

Resistance occurs when the team member:

  • does not believe that change can occur. This could be a belief that the project team is incapable of changing or that the company will never allow the change.
  • does not feel that the project vision is worthwhile.
  • does not feel that the project fits with their personal values.
  • does not feel needed on the project.
  • does not understand his/her contribution to the project, or does not know what to do next.
  • does not believe that he/she is qualified to be on the team.

So, what can you do?

First, work out what is causing the resistance. “Ask questions – all of these start with ask questions. Seek first to understand,” says Lou Russell on the tiny screen, as I watch the lectures. She offers a range of approaches to deal with different types of resistance including:

  • If the person is not really needed on the project, move them to meaningful work.
  • If they are needed, convince them that they are important and have a valuable part to play.
  • Provide stretch goals.
  • Work with individuals to ensure they understand the next 3 tasks so that they are clear on what to do next. Help them prioritise if necessary.
  • Find out what are the values that are bothering the team member. Establish what would have to happen to make the team member feel that their personal values are being honoured.

Assigning people to tasks

We also covered factors for assigning people to project tasks. Match the person to the task. Making a good match will help the team be productive and efficient.

Russell covered 4 points:

  1. Skill variety: don’t assign all the boring, repetitive tasks to one person. Spread them around. Ensure that each person gets variety in their work.
  2. Task identity: make sure that the task is clear, measurable and possible, and that the person knows what they need to do.
  3. Task significance: make sure that the task is actually relevant to the project. The contribution made should be important to the success of the whole.
  4. Feedback: the individual should receive positive and developmental feedback. Feedback should be regular.

We covered lots more including coaching, giving effective feedback, listening and facilitation skills and managing collaboration. And there was another test this week. I haven’t finalised my grade yet, so I’m not going to share it here this time!