TeamFit provides economic value by making projects more successful. A lot of good things flow from project success. Stronger customer relationships are the most important and have the biggest long-term economic impact. With strong customer relationships come more repeat work and the ability to work through the problems that inevitably come up from time to time. Successful projects also lead to more successful people and successful people are more engaged.
We recently had a deep conversation about project success with one of the world’s leading consulting companies. We dug into root causes and got to the three foundations that project success builds on.
When we were doing our initial market research on TeamFit we would end each interview with our magic wand question. ‘If we could give you a magic wand that would solve your worst problem with teams, what would it do?’ The most common answer was ‘It would help us get the right people on the team?’
Who are the right people? This is a pretty complex question. It is people who
Building such teams, and leading them, is an important skill in its own right. TeamFit helps people get better at this.
Many projects go off the rails because they are poorly defined. This can happen in two ways. (i) The deliverables are poorly defined. (ii) There is a mismatch between deliverables, goals and outcomes.
Some projects fail because the initial deliverables are poorly defined and there is no method in place to get to clarity. It is not always possible to spell out the deliverables in explicit detail. In fact this is only possible for routine and commoditized work. The kinds of projects where professional services firms bring the least differentiated value. What is more important than specifying the deliverables in complete detail is to have a process by which the deliverables are clarified and agreed on as the project proceeds.
Clarifying deliverables happens in the context of goals. It is often more important to get alignment on project goals than it is to break down the project into granular details. Goal alignment is more complex than it looks. There are three internal tensions that have to be addressed. An individual’s goals need to be aligned with the team and the organization. The team’s goals have to be aligned with the individual and organization. And when the project is for a client, these goals have to align with those of the client.
Perfect alignment is neither feasible nor desirable. There has to be room for creative tension. As long as each party is honest with the other, and realizes its autonomy, excellent outcomes are possible. But when the autonomy of the individual or the team is denied, dysfunction results.
Any major project will have problems. Having a good working relationship at all levels is critical to successfully navigating these. The partner who is accountable for the work at the professional services firm has to have a good relationship with the executive sponsor. There has to be an effective working relationship between the project members and the people at the client. And the project team has to have the necessary coherence.
What does it mean to have a good working relationship?
Complementary Skills: These are skills held by different people or organizations where the combination is greater than the sum of its parts. Build teams with strong combinations of complementary skills.
At the end of the day, the person who sold and is accountable for the work and the executive sponsor are accountable for project success. This is why organizations where sales and delivery are poorly connected struggle to build long-term client relationships. It is already hard enough to manage goal alignment and communication without having to worry about the sales-delivery tensions that exist in so many organizations. This is why at leading consulting firms it is partners that still lead the sales of major projects.
TeamFit is building a platform that makes it easier and faster to build better teams. Over time we will expand this to cover all three pillars of project success.