Many times you will be leading a team of subject matter experts whose expertise in their specialty exceeds your knowledge of it by a significant amount. It’s easy to say that you have no need or obligation for team training for these people. While it may be true that you don’t have to train them in their specialty, you may need to train them on how to be a team member. It’s not unusual for subject matter experts to think that they need to do nothing but apply their particular expertise to the matter at hand. But subject matter experts’ contribution and value to the team may be completely undermined if they don’t know how to be a team member. There are five things every person on a team needs to know, whether they’re doing clerical work or applying the talents that won them the Nobel prize.
Team Training on Assignments
The project manager or team leader may hand out assignments to each member of the team. Alternatively the team as a group may decompose the overall objective, breaking it into the assignments or deliverables that each team member has to produce. In either case, the team member needs to create a work package for that assignment. They must be able to add information about the exact nature of the deliverable and the acceptance criteria that will be used to determine whether the deliverable produces what the project needs.
The project manager could certainly do this but it’s also up to the team member to be able to refine the acceptance criteria and make sure there is clear understanding about what will and what will not be produced. Defining acceptance criteria is what makes people’s expectation for the assignment realistic. As an example, let’s say a team member is assigned to cleanup the supply room. If the project manager and team member don’t explicitly define the end result, they will have a disappointed sponsor and stakeholders. So in the work package they might specify the acceptance criteria with language like, “90% of the people can find the office supply item they need within 60 seconds.” That’s a very clear acceptance criteria because the standard is finding the item within 60 seconds. That makes clear that people should not expect to be able to find things in 10 seconds. It also says that 10% of the time they won’t be able to find what they want in 60 seconds, usually because the item is out of stock. So we’ve communicated a lot about the assignment and the result with that single acceptance criteria. We might add a second criteria that says, “office supplies will be placed on the shelf in alphabetical order by manufacturer’s name.” That acceptance criteria also makes clear how the items in the supply room will be organized. If people have other ways in which they want the supplies placed on the shelves, the time to find out about it is before we start work, not when were finished. People who are effective on teams know how to do this and they make clear to the team leader or project manager and any users of their work exactly what they’re going to produce.
Team Training on Estimating the Hours of Work
Effective team training teaches members to think about their assignments in terms of the hours of work required to produce them. They shouldn’t get caught in the trap of committing to a due date. A good team member knows only trouble comes from agreeing to a hard and fast due date for the completion of the work. A wise team member tells the project manager or team leader, “This assignment is about 60 hours worth of work and my boss has agreed that I can work four hours a day. If my estimate of the amount of work is accurate and I am allowed to work four hours a day, I can complete the assignment in 15 days.” That’s a very clear kind of commitment.
But a bad project manager might insist on getting a completion date. So the savvy team member says. “If I’m allowed to work four hours a day on it and if my estimate of 60 hours of work in total is correct, I can be finished 15 days after I start.” A good team member meets his commitments but doesn’t make commitments he can’t keep. We have to train team members to estimate the amount of work and think of the assignment in terms of the workload and their availability. That’s much more effective than making promises they aren’t sure they can keep.
Team Training on Reporting Status
Effective team training also teaches members how to report the status of their assignments. They must have a reporting tool that is efficient so they don’t waste time giving the team leader or project manager what’s needed. The basic status reporting package is for the team member to tell the project manager how many hours of work they have completed on the assignment and how many hours of work remain. That second number is a difficult one. The way people develop skills in estimating hours of work is to get regular feedback on it. Specifically, if a team member makes an estimate on an assignment and then each week is asked to again estimate the remaining work, they will get better at it. That’s particularly true if the project manager talks with them about why last week’s estimate was off.
After learning how to compile the above data, the team member also needs to be able to compare the original estimate to the current estimate of work and explain to the project manager why it was different. This is where having a well developed work package can be a great help. Any changes to the requirements or expectations should be documented in the work package. If the expectations for the assignment change, the work estimates should change as a result. Coaching and feedback from the team leader or project manager will make team members more effective estimators in a very short amount of time.
Team Training Summary
Team training so your team members understand how to do work packaging estimating and status reporting will make them more effective and efficient. It will also make each member of the team a more confident performer because they will know exactly what they’re expected to produce before they start work on their assignment(s).
Learn how to use work packages, estimating and status reporting in our online project management basics courses. You work privately with a expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences with your instructor as you wish. Take a look at the course in your specialty.
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