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Last edited 22 Sep 2020
Team management for building design and construction projects
According to Harold Kerzner (2009 Ref 1), ‘project management is much more behavioural than quantitative since projects are run by people...’ It is the people, the project manager and the team, that are the key to project success.
Projects involve a wide range of different team members, with particular disciplines and backgrounds, diversity of skills and personalities. It is often the role of the project manager (or team leader) to get the individual team members to view the project from the ‘’big picture’’ perspective and direct them towards the same clear goals (Ref 3).
Team building can occur naturally as people work together to achieve a common goal, but this can take a considerable amount of time, and projects often demand quick results. Approaches to team building, can differ, depending on the type of the project, the managerial style of the team leader, and the specific types of people on the project team.
First a plan must be created by the project manager, setting out the ‘what, how, when and who’ so that team members will be able to understand their assignments and responsibilities. They must then select project team personnel considering not only the person’s expertise, but whether they will be an effective team player. The team can then be organised, giving assignments, responsibilities and accountabilities to specific people or groups of people.
The next step is getting the individuals to work together as a team. One crucial step to the team building process is the kick-off, or start up meeting (see Consultant team start-up meeting). This start-up meeting is a chance for the team members to get to know each other, establish relationships and lines of communication, identify problems, set goals and objectives and obtain commitments.
 Roles and responsibilities
A Roles and Responsibilities Matrix can be used to set out the roles within a project and associated responsibilities. This matrix can help identify the roles required, what actions individuals and groups will need to take, whether there are any gaps, and what additional resources may be needed to complete the project. An assessment can then be made as to whether any additional resources required exist within the organisation or whether new appointments or external resources will be required.
 The project manager
The project manager (or team leader) has to direct and integrate resources whilst meeting performance standards, schedule dates, and cost objectives. They are responsible for the team’s guidance, motivation, output and control and for successfully organising the project by carefully mixing human, financial, and physical resources at the proper time, and under a single line of authority.
As a leader, they are; project integrator, planner, communicator, administrator and ‘mother’. This requires an ability to work well with others, experience, expertise, good communication and negotiation skills and the ability to retain control of the team and the project.
Team trust and leadership must be earned as part of the team building process. This is one of the differences between leadership and management. The leader should be a role model for team, and someone that people follow willingly because they provide a means of achieving their own personal goals.
- Autocratic leaders make managerial decisions by themselves. They tell their employees what they want done and how they want it accomplished, without getting the advice of their followers.
- Consultive autocrats use information from the members, but keep all substantive decision-making authority to themselves.
- Consensus managers tend to throw open the problem to the group for discussion and allow or encourage the group to make the decision.
- Shareholder managers, give the group the ultimate authority for the final decision.
Forces such as time availability, the type of the task, information availability and team members ability and skills should influence the style adopted. Slevin (1983) suggests ‘…the key to successful leadership is knowing what your dominant style is and being able to modify that style depending upon the contingencies of the various leadership situations that you face’ (Ref 6).
In modern management there has been a change from dealing with problems on a one-on-one basis to solving problems collectively, involving everyone who has a contribution to make. This concept is known as 'shared leadership'. As the complexity of knowledge increases, the need for shared leadership also increases. Shared leadership is about letting the project team take over as much of the leadership role as they will accept.
Team members are unavoidably different kinds of people, each with their own special contribution to the team. Their roles can be constructive or destructive. Constructive roles move the group towards action and accomplishing results, while destructive roles hinder the accomplishment of group goals.
Constructive roles include; the initiator, the information seeker, the information giver (who contributes with knowledge and experience), the encourager, the harmonizer (who tries to maintain a good climate within the team), the clarifier, the summariser and the gatekeeper (who helps other participants to contribute to, or join conversations).
Destructive roles include; the aggressor (who criticises and deflates the status of others), the blocker (who constantly rejects), the withdrawer (who holds back and doesn’t participate), the recognition seeker, the topic jumper and the dominator (who tries to take over conversations).
The devil’s advocate, who brings up alternative viewpoints, can be positive or negative (Ref 7).
Typically, each organisation’s goals and objectives are set by its top management, respecting the organisation’s values, purposes and missions pursued. Usually the team members, have to abide to these, even when they differ strongly from their own goals, objectives or personality.
Conflict arises due to factors such as; overlapping or contradicting goals, roles, authority, ideas, personalities, and so on. Conflict is inevitable but is not always negative. Constructive conflict occurs when people change and grow personally from the conflict, involvement of the individuals affected by the conflict is increased and a solution to the problem is found.
Deconstructive conflict occurs when a resolution has not been found and the problem remains, energy is taken away from more important activities, morale of teams or individuals is destroyed, and groups of people or teams are polarised.
Conflict can arise between parties when:
- They have unclear work boundaries and role definitions (ambiguous jurisdictions).
- Parties try to achieve different or inconsistent goals (conflict of interest and personality).
- Communication difficulties create misunderstanding and the blocking of efforts to explain needs, viewpoints and actions.
- Disagreements concerning scheduling and timing constraints.
- Differing ideas over the sequence of activities and tasks.
- Differences between and within the project team and support groups.
- Disagreements over technical issues.
The project manager is generally responsible for managing conflict and avoiding destructive results. According to the situation and the phase of the project, different available powers can be used, including; legitimate power (derived from position and title), coercive power, reward power, expert power and referent power.
Managing conflict involves different kinds of managing models;
- The withdrawal model, which suggests retreating from actual or potential disagreements or conflict situations.
- The smoothing approach, that suggests de-emphasising differences and emphasising commonalities over conflicting issues appropriate for keeping a friendly atmosphere.
- The compromising model, trying to achieve a degree of satisfaction for both parties.
- The forcing model, which implies a win-lose situation, and can lead to further conflict.
- The problem solving approach, addresses directly the disagreement and searches for a solution.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Alternative dispute resolution.
- Can relationships in and between organisations make tangible differences to business performance?
- Collaborative practices.
- Collaboration: a quality management perspective.
- Commercial manager.
- Construction team.
- Consultant team.
- Consultant team start-up meeting.
- Consulting engineer.
- Design team meeting.
- Five ways mentoring can benefit a career.
- Human resource management in construction.
- Integrated project team.
- Integrated supply team.
- Leadership styles.
- Recruiting and retaining talent in the construction industry.
- Relationship management.
- Team behavioural roles (repeats part of the text from this article)
 External references
- 1 Harold Kerzner 2009,Project Management, a systems approach to planning, scheduling and controlling, John Wiley & Sons, New Jersey.
- 2 Woodcock, M & Francis, D 1981, Organization development through teambuilding, John Wiley & Sons(Halsted Press), New York
- 3 Pennypacker, J 1997,Principles of project management: collected handbooks from the Project Management Institute, Project Management Institute, Inc, USA
- 4 Woodcock, M 1979, Team development manual, John Wiley & Sons(Halsted Press), New York
- 5 Wilemon, D & Thamhain, H 1983, A model for developing high performance project teams, proceedings of the fifteenth annual seminar/symposium, Project Management Institute, Inc, Drexel Hill,Penn
- 6 Slevin, D 1983, Leadership and the project manager. Project management handbook,edited by Cleland and King, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York
- 7 Pennypacker, J 1997,Principles of project management: collected handbooks from the Project Management Institute, Project Management Institute, Inc, USA
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