Charting a Path to Effective Project Teams


hommes d'affaires et bagarreTeam projects are quite common in strategy classes. While the topic of team effectiveness is usually more central for organizational behavior courses, it is essential for organizational effectiveness … and team projects. While you may not want to allocate a lot of time and resources to the topic, you may want to get teams off to a good start so you don’t have to address dysfunctions later in the semester. One reason things may go south is the team’s desire for a “fast and enthusiastic start.” A bias for action can sometimes sabotage collaborative efforts. That well-meaning call to action — “let’s get this done!” – can result in a “sloppy start.”

Larry Dressler offers a solution to this challenge for teams in organizations — require that teams undergo a careful process of “chartering.” This involves bringing team members together at the outset to clearly articulate answers to these questions. The following adapts the chartering process for student project teams:

  • Purpose: Why does this team exist? Why are team projects important for the learning process?
  • Role: What is our authority to make decisions? What aspects are required for the project and on what dimensions does the team have latitude?
  • Goals: What concrete outcomes do we intend to accomplish as a team? What level of quality? What learning objectives? What grade?
  • Agreements: What do we expect from one another? What shared commitments do we want to put in place in order to ensure we function well? (e.g., How we go about sharing information, meeting, making decisions, etc.)?
  • Support: What kind of support (e.g., guidance, resources, information, etc.) do we think we will need from others to succeed in achieving our purpose and objectives?

High performing teams invest the time and effort to create a project charter at the outset. Skipping the chartering process is like blowing off breakfast so you can get to work 30 minutes earlier. It seems like a good idea until intelligence and productivity fade away as your blood sugar plummets by 9:30 am. Once a clear project charter is in place, the team should review it periodically to reaffirm shared purpose, goals, and agreements or to update that charter based on what the team has been learning over the course of the work.

Contributed by Larry Dressler

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