In my 40 years of working on facilities renovation and relocation projects, I have had the honor to work with a number of effective project team leaders. Many of them were facilities managers representing the interests of their management. They all had something in common. They knew how to establish an atmosphere of trust and how to create a sense of shared purpose and team synergy. They were organized, they established clear project goals and objectives and they knew how to guide their team throughout the project while never losing sight of those critical project success metrics. Showing respect for the other team members’ expertise and opinion is also critical in creating this atmosphere of trust. Re-considering a long-held belief based on a team member’s expertise and experience goes a long way to illustrating that respect.
Another key attribute to effective team leadership is establishing quality standards and communicating those expectations to the other team members. This is easier when you work with the same proven team members from one project to another, but more difficult when you are working with new team members. Quality standards can include everything to meeting deadlines, having complete, coordinated and accurate work submissions. Expectations can also include being proactive in your dealings with other team member, outside vendors and consultants as well as effectively communicating with other team members.
Defined approval process and sign-offs
Many projects get off track because there is no defined review and approval process that is established between the project leadership and the stakeholders or end-users. The project stakeholders usually have a project completion date in mind, whether it is a wish date or a critical date. It is vitally important for the team leader to communicate with the end-users that in order to achieve that date, that certain key milestone dates need to me met, which includes a specific number of days for their review and sign-off indicating their approval. They also need to understand that if they make any further changes to the project design or deliverables, that the critical completion date won’t be met and that they will have to incur any additional soft costs for revisions to documents or hard costs for demolition and construction.
Working in Virtual Teams
For larger, long term projects where team members may be brought in from remote locations and regular face to face meetings may be too expensive or impractical, creating an effective virtual team work environment supported by the right technology tools will be critical. Put communications on the agenda at the beginning of the project. Agree upfront on the when and how the team should communicate. Be mindful of time zone differences so that no team members are adversely effected by the planned time of remote project meetings. Kick-off the project with a face to face meeting where team members can get to know each other better and create a personal connection before they have to work remotely with each other. Consider technology tools such as “WebX” for conference calls or “Go to Meeting” where visuals are important. Consider creating a project management web site which can act as a central repository for all project documents. Some of the most popular project management web-based tools that work well for facilities-related projects are Project Center and Basecamp. Microsoft SharePoint is also a good tool but it needs to be customized on a project by project basis for a facilities project type.
Smaller projects can utilize virtual team meetings in order to reduce the cost and time required for face to face meetings. It is not unusual for projects teams to meet virtually every other meeting, especially during the construction phase of a project. The most important thing is to have regular team meetings at predictable intervals so that it gets onto every team member’s schedule. Asking for agenda items from the project team members, sending out an agenda in advance of the meeting and following up with a timely meeting report with assigned action items are also critical tools for effective team communication.
Be respectful of your team members’ time. If a team member is not active during certain phases of a project, there is no reason to request their attendance during a meeting where they are inactive. Let them know in advance that team members will cycle in and out of a project depending on their responsibilities and activities over the course of the project so that they don’t take a non-invite to a meeting personally.
My Communications Check List:
- All team members know their areas of responsibility and know what is expected of them and their critical milestone dates for deliverables and approvals
- All project team members understand the goals and objectives of the project as well as the project success metrics
- Regular team meetings have been set up on specific day and time each week. Invites are sent out for these meetings to all relevant team members
- All team members understand my preferred methods of communication and the turn-around time that I expect for responses