The run up to project kickoff for any initiative can be characterized as attempting to establish order out of chaos. Once the project manager is appointed he/she is moving rapidly to put together action plans and to launch the project on the right footing. In some respects this may feel as though it is a hit or miss event. One risk that can jeopardize the effectiveness of the launch and increase the changes for project success is treating the process as though we are going through the motions rather than slowing things down to validate that everyone is on the same page.
The challenge that I often observe is that the organizational leadership, even the project manager and team members are anxious to move through the stages of group development very quickly. They somehow want to zoom through the forming, storming, and norming to get to the performing process. While this is understandable, I have seen many instances where doing so causes greater harm than good. One important question that teams should be able to address is whether they have established effective unity on the team. By unity I don’t mean that everyone gets along and are friends with each other. Don’t get me wrong, getting along is important in facilitating progress sometimes. Unity in this context refers to outlook and perspective and can be viewed along three different parameters:
- Unity of Purpose: Do we understand why we’ve come together and why this team was formed? What purpose are we trying to fulfill. Is there agreement between the team members that this is the right purpose?
- Unity of Vision: Do we all share a common definition of success once the project is concluded? Do we agree on “when done is done?”
- Unity of Values: Are we able to respect the same ground rules, values, and assumptions when it comes to planning and acting on the project? Can we set aside differences in management approaches and establish a common outlook?
Spending the time to establish this unity for these elements of the project is not simply getting in a room to draft a vision and mission statement for the project. Unfortunately we find that we treat this process as an administrative task that should be completed as quickly as possible.
In my experience I would argue that this is a process that starts in the forming stages of team development and as the group goes through the various stages it culminates in the project charter. Our challenge in this instance is to slow things down when we might feel a need to move through the process quickly. This is perhaps one of the few instances where getting right is more important than getting it done quickly.