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Ways IT Teams Work: What Makes Them Effective?

This is the last post in this series on the ways that IT teams work. I complete this series by examining the characteristics of teams that make them effective regardless of the way they are organized to carry out their work.

About the Team
Teams work best when a number of factors are optimized. For example, team members function best when they are treated with trust and respect. Supported in this way, team members do their best work, regardless of their individual strengths and weaknesses. Strong leadership is also an important factor, as it’s needed to help propel teams forward. Who wants to work on a team that doesn’t have consistent and compelling leadership?

Another factor is team and individual reliability. Members and leaders of teams need to do what they say they will do, otherwise the team could falter.  Also, teams work well when they have a balance of introverts and extroverts as this mix of personalities and work style provides equilibrium. Many researchers and practitioners identify and discuss these factors of trust, respect, leadership and reliability.
Role of Communications

Proactive communication is also important. Project leaders need to establish communication channels that work effectively. Team members need to communicate status and work outside status meetings to move their efforts forward at the right pace.

Meetings should be used as a major communication tool. Face-to-face meetings, although somewhat uncommon today, are useful and worth the expense. Conference calls by phone are now the place where status is communicated. Status calls aren’t the place to get project work completed, as this needs to be done in another way so the entire team isn’t involved when just a subset of team members are needed. The project manager needs to recognize when project work isn’t being done effectively and help to facilitate a change when needed.

Perhaps the best tactic for a status meeting is to involve participants and to have them communicate status and bring up exceptions that need to be managed. It’s generally agreed that project managers need to focus on planning, communicating, handling day-to-day challenges and passing problems to management for help in resolving. 

The People Manager’s Role 
The people manager needs to help manage exceptions and engage others to help with the task of hiring new team members. People managers are important in establishing clear purpose and creating opportunities for individual growth and development. They should foster an environment of openness. They should set goals and provide regular reviews.

These characteristics make teams effective regardless of the way they are organized to carry out their work. These characteristics can also make it rewarding for team members to be part of a team as they gain experience and grow over their careers.