Sunday, July 17, 2016

What's the Secret of High Performing Project Teams!

The team is dead, long live the team!

In a rapidly changing and competitive environment, companies must innovate to survive. The future of work is the project team - knowledge workers who come together to deliver on a project before breaking up and moving on to the next one.

But forming a project team based on the expertise of the team members doesn't always work. Egos are often at stake, and more often than not team dynamics swamps the technical potential of the team. So, what's the secret of getting project teams to perform at their best?

A 2012 Harvard University study found the way teams shared knowledge significantly determined how well they performed. They coined the term knowledge integration capability to refer to a reliable pattern of team communication that helps the team to understand complex problems and get better outcomes. They looked at 79 client-facing teams in a professional services firm, and here's what they found:
  • Knowledge integration capability was positively correlated with team performance.
  • Under conditions of high uncertainty, relational resources (team members who knew each other and knew what knowledge each possessed) and the structure of those resources (high dispersal or sharing of knowledge) were strongly related to knowledge integration capability.
  • Under conditions of uncertainty, experiential resources (team members with the right type and level of task knowledge) and the structure of those resources (low dispersal of knowledge, closely guarded by team members) detracted from knowledge integration capability.
What does this mean? To get high performing project teams, you need to ensure:
  1. A high level of knowledge integration capability, and this seems particularly relevant under conditions of high uncertainty where the expected outcomes may be unclear and support for the project may be ambivalent.
  2. That at least some of the team members have worked together before and have an appreciation of each others' knowledge. 
  3. That knowledge is widely dispersed and accessible to all team members, not retained by one or two individuals.
  4. While the right type and level of task-related knowledge that team members possess is important, it might lead to rigidities that inhibit the efficiency and collaborativeness of communication.
How well is your team tracking? Get the KIC (Knowledge Integration Capability) assessment here.