Modern teams are not the same as the teams in the past. Today, managers work with Agile and non-Agile teams whose members have diverse backgrounds, possess unique skills, and are often distributed across the globe. The team members’ turnover is usually also higher than before. Still, despite all those differences and new challenges that came along, the fundamentals of effective team management have hardly changed.
Today, you will learn about those core principles that will help your team thrive and work more effectively.
What does team management mean?
Team management focuses on motivating and coordinating a group of people to achieve a common task or goal as planned. There are different team management styles and they all help achieve different goals. However, in either case, it is the job of a team manager to support the needs of their team members so they can remain productive.
Team management is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process where managers handle all the activities, techniques, and tools that enable and bind teams and individual members to cooperate better. In particular, communication and conflict management, goal setting, performance review, and teamwork.
Difference between team management and team leadership
Although team management and team leadership share some similarities, both terms are not interchangeable. Team managers’ and team leaders’ primary objective is to work toward a common goal—but in different ways. Team managers do so through people management (or control), while team leaders through inspiration and motivation.
You could think of team leaders as those who approach their teams more holistically (or focus on the big picture if you will) and align them with the company vision. Team managers, on the other hand, look at the company vision from a low-level perspective—they are more concerned with task completion and keeping their team members productive.
However, effective team management is an art that comes down to team leadership. Therefore, those two roles can overlap and be in hands of the same individual.
Common challenges in team management
Teams drive projects but they will not run smoothly if their managers steer them in the wrong direction or do not fuel them with what they need. As explained earlier, team managers are responsible for many different aspects of their team’s “well-being.” This includes creating an environment to foster great teamwork through leadership and tools.
However, it is easier said than done. Team management often comes with many challenges, notably including:
- Team member’s performance (including meeting KPIs).
- Internal communication (with on-site and distributed teams).
- Collaboration and task assignment (to ensure the right work is done by the right people and on time).
- Workload (to avoid exceeding your team member’s capacity).
- Trust (to build connections and positive relationships with and within a team).
Therefore, you will need to employ a set of techniques and tools to ensure your team works as one and pushes the project forward.
Create an environment for a team to thrive
Each team is unique as it consists of unique people. Those people do not perform equally or even get along too well with the rest of their group. That is why, new teams do not always start performing right from the beginning—they need time and the right team management approach.
So how can you ensure your team is efficient and harmonious, no matter its members’ character traits, backgrounds, and roles? Over the years, scholars and management practitioners have developed several team effectiveness models. In our post, we will cover one of the popular team effectiveness models developed by J Richard Hackman—The Five-Factor Model.
The Five-Factor Model
Based on work with various teams from different industries, Harvard University professor Richard Hackman has identified five enabling conditions that must be present in teams for effective teamwork and team success. He also found that these five conditions were more important than individual team members’ attitudes, behaviors, or personalities.
Let’s briefly go through each of those factors the team needs to have.
#1 Real team
What does being a real team mean? It means a team is more than just some group of people. A real team consists of individuals who are dedicated to achieving a goal they all share. Such a team has clear boundaries that help members to identify who is inside and who is outside the group. Also, the membership to a real team is stable and its members exercise a high degree of independence.
As a manager, you can control the first two factors (goals and boundaries). However, you may find that the stability of the group members is the hardest element to control. This may become especially apparent in a project-type environment where team stability is valid only for the duration of the project. Or, when your team has a member with rare skills, there is a possibility that other teams will need to “borrow” that person to move on with their tasks.
#2 Compelling direction
The second factor is to provide your team with a compelling direction. Or, in other words, you set clear goals, which are both challenging and consequential. The “direction” of the goal is more concerned with the end results, rather than the means your team will use to achieve it. Those clear, challenging, and consequential goals need to communicate how the team contributes to the organization’s overall mission.
#3 Enabling structure
However you organize your team, its structure must facilitate teamwork. For instance, the size of the team should be small enough to make it manageable. If you have a large team, it might be a good idea to break it down into smaller sub-groups. In addition, when structuring your team, you want to ensure that key people on it have sound social skills. This will ensure that the decision will be made on well-presented arguments rather than conflicts within a team.
#4 Supportive organizational context
The environment your team operates in should support what the team does so they can do it effectively. Specifically, the support should include three basic elements: development, information, and reward.
- Development: There should be an educational system in place offering training to help team members develop their skills. Professional development will help them remain efficient.
- Information: Your responsibility as a manager is to ensure your team has easy access to material resources. These could include sufficient funding and technological assistance.
- Reward: Support also means you reward your team members according to their cooperation and performance. The goal is to make team feel appreciated and reinforce good performance.
#5 Expert coaching
To help your team members carry out their job in the most efficient manner, they should have access to a mentor or a coach who would help them with questions and challenges related to their work or individual skills. Through your day-to-day team management duties and regular reviews, you can identify who on your team requires help with a particular task or individual skills development.
Once you identify areas that call for assistance, you coach or mentor such a person to how they can overcome this challenge and develop (or improve) the skills they lack.
Technological assistance for better team management
Teams work better when they work together. However, these days, when individual team members often work remotely, “working together” takes on a new meaning. As pointed out earlier, distributed teams/team members and workload assignments are one of the biggest challenges team managers face.
Luckily, the right software will help you connect and monitor their teams and enhance their ability to work together. A team management tool not only improves collaboration but also provides features that help managers easily allocate work and balance their resource capacity.
Let’s take a look at how team managers can benefit from using BigPicture for Jira to manage their teams effectively.
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Jira issues (tasks) link your team with the project. Your responsibility is to determine project tasks and assign them to your team members (or arrange them in the backlog to have them ready for an Agile planning session). Your team, on the other hand, is to execute and deliver them on time.
You can allocate tasks to your resources with BigPicture in five different ways, including in-line editing of the assignee field and task drag-and-drop operations. The app also supports task prioritization and different task types which you will not find in Jira (e.g., milestones).
Security roles determine who can access your project and to what extent they can make any changes. When managing a team, you want to ensure your people have access to the project so they can follow its progress, check new assignments, and update their task statuses. At the same time, you protect your project from potential changes a third-party person could introduce by mistake.
Custom views allow you and your team to work on the same project but follow different data based on your and their needs. For instance, you can populate your WBS, Scope, or Overview with columns showing you data regarding cost and time estimates. Whereas your time might need to keep an eye on, i.e., assignees, priority, and progress.
To create custom views, add the data (columns) you want to track and click the save button.
Resources are anything you need to complete the project, including equipment, supplies, and your teams. When managing teams, you need to account for their availability (including absences and leaves) and maximum workload. These two factors will determine your resource capacity.
Moreover, your individual team members’ capacities might differ in case they also work on other projects. Therefore, you need to know who, when, and to what extent can work on your project tasks, so that you can balance their workload and secure your project’s progress.
With a color-coded capacity resource page, you can instantly see who has too few or too many tasks assigned. You can also reallocate resources right on this page to balance your team’s workload. In addition, the Resource Manager feature will let you manage your team’s holidays, memberships, and skills.
Reports collect and present rich data in a more comprehensive and visual way. They give you a more granular view when you want to measure different aspects of your project that you cannot readily read from your Gantt, Board, Resources, or any other view. Reports also help you keep your stakeholders in the loop.
When it comes to team-related reporting, BigPicture lets you build a robust reporting dashboard that will display, among others, priorities and task statuses per assignee, team velocity, individual and team capacity, and much more.
Team management: summary
Managing a team requires a proper approach to enable its members to perform to the best of their knowledge and skills. It is also about keeping an eye on the project schedule and tasks and balancing the team workload for optimal performance.
Richard Hackman’s model can help your team remain motivated and productive. Project management tools like BigPicture, on the other hand, will let you track all the task assignments, and progress, as well as manage the team’s workload and schedule. Moreover, security roles will ensure that your on-site and remote team members have access to your project. While the custom views will let them easily look up their new assignments and update progress on current tasks.