2. Commit to team standards of behavior.
Avoid creating business-as-usual teams—those you tolerate or suffer through with predictable consequences. For several years, more than 90% of our project teams have adopted a protocol that reads something like this: “There will be no e-mails or letters except to memorialize a verbal conversation.” This commitment can stop a business-as-usual job in its tracks. It enables individuals to relate as people, solving complex issues talking together.
3. Engage in an ongoing team conversation to identify, prevent and mitigate potential risks.
With common goals and open communication at the outset of their job, a world-class team can identify 85% or more of the potential risks to their outcome. And, of those, they can significantly prevent or mitigate nearly all of them. Try it. It works.
4. Ask this question of your team: “How will we deal with individuals or companies who are unable or unwilling to act in accordance with our team goals and standards?”
World-class teams are tough on one another. They ask hard questions: “What is the real solution?” They talk about it and deal with it. On a major library project, a key sub-consultant was unavailable and reactive—playing a lot of “tennis.” The team mandated he attend a weekly meeting that discussed his absence and then insisted upon verbal commitments for improvement—or removal. (And yes, in some cases, a team agrees that an individual needs to leave the project.)
5. Develop a formal process to monitor performance of team goals and commitments.
This can involve surveys and accountability-review workshops with senior management. A world-class team looks at these as opportunities to learn, overcome new challenges, re-focus and align and strengthen the team.
And on world-class teams, you can’t have too many celebratory barbeques.
But what about those jobs where everyone and everything seemingly is against you? “You circle the wagons,” one general contractor said.
Lastly, do not fall victim to the notion that favorable project circumstances or trendy delivery methods will somehow ensure world-class teamwork: “Hey, we’re using design-build, a pre-qualified GC, lean, BIM, etc. and, therefore, this job will have great teamwork.” This attitude, or hubris, can doom a team by precluding them from asking the hard questions about common goals, risks and how they will deal with inevitable conflicts.
World-class teams acknowledge their project’s circumstances while never underestimating their ability to overcome them. They truly “own the game.” This in turn leads to passion, pride and a true sense of accomplishment.
Jim Eisenhart is president of the Ventura Consulting Group. He is the inaugural 2012 recipient of the International Partnering Institute’s “Excellence in Partnering Facilitation” award and the author of “From Good to World Class: Raising the Bar on Construction Project Teamwork.”