Once the project team starts to work on the ‘how’ aspect of its end product, it is very crucial that the team members are aligned and tuned in to the goals of the project. Even if they are going to be working in autonomy, the project manager needs to guide his team because a well-guided team is the key to a successful project.
Most organizations pride themselves of having a great teamwork while some companies adopt self-organizing teams. However, the trend is now into autonomy. Members who belong to the ‘teamwork’ oriented organizations often complain of lack of autonomy. Autonomy is a certain level of independence that is accorded to a member wherein he or she is free of influence and control by his or her superior. Autonomy is definitely scary to accept as well as allow but one of the requirements in producing high-performing teams is to build trust, transparency and commitment. In a project team that fosters a teaming culture, it is essential that the members be given a certain level of autonomy for them to be free to perform their tasks in the best way that they can.
Project management consultants often encounter this dilemma in project teams. With this type of problem they know that a very important component is the leadership aspect – project manager, executives and stakeholders. The consultants work with them on how they can create a culture that supports the real ‘teaming’. They encourage managers to support self-organizing teams and they know this isn’t an easy task. It is hard for managers to let go of their control especially on teams and people who lack the experience to govern themselves.
Unfortunately, this type of insight is similar to what parents feel when their children who are either young kids or grown-ups start learning new things or enter a new stage of life. They are scared to think how they can cope up with the challenges that go with something new. This is how managers in ‘teaming’ spirit feel as regards self-organizing teams. It is actually an insight that they need to direct and control the team and not let them work on their self-determination so that when they become successful, all the credits go to the managers.
Considering the need of autonomy amidst the anxiety of the managers, how can a project manager guide his team effectively if the members are allowed to become responsible for their own tasks? How can he ensure that the team will be going smoothly as a whole group despite everybody doing their tasks responsibly on their own?
The keyword is ‘alignment’. If a project manager knows how to align everything towards the common mission and vision or goals of the team, the members will naturally follow. Communication is very crucial because every problem needs to be brought up so that it can be solved and the team collaborates with each other in arriving at the best possible solution. There is a need to emphasize the vision/goals each and every time because the future is the key to direction and purpose.
A guided team drives successful projects despite its autonomy because there is guidance from its leaders and an organizational structure that binds the members together to a common goal.