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How to create high-performing project management teams

Sharon Florentine | June 3, 2014
Top-notch IT product-delivery teams have three traits in common. Find out to build those project management attributes in your team.

What do high-performing IT teams have in common? Why do some teams consistently deliver innovative products on schedule and with high levels of customer satisfaction, while others seem to consistently fall short?

"Today's IT market demands products that aren't just functional, but universally accessible, beautifully designed and intuitive and user-friendly," says JAMA Software's CEO Eric Winquist.

Winquist and his company looked at a number of product delivery (or project management) teams and found that the most successful ones see themselves as "victors" rather than "victims" in a difficult, highly competitive industry landscape, and share common goals and characteristics.

Victors vs. Victims

"What we started to see is that organizations and IT teams that identify themselves as 'victors' see each project as an opportunity to innovate, to provide a new level of business value for their organizations," says Winquist.

"Because of that mindset, they will be empowered, engaged and make good decisions. Their companies will be much more successful than the 'victims,'" he says.

What makes a "victim"? A victim mindset, Winquist says, is one where cost-cutting, micromanagement, excessive control of information and reporting and a "command and control" philosophy is enacted. "Victims are constantly cutting costs, locking down processes, not sharing information or collaborating, micromanaging, and they have a harder time dealing with complexity and change," Winquist says.

Because of this mindset, Winquist adds, many organizations become so focused on controlling the production and delivery process that they miss the mark of what the customer really wanted, too.

"The victors recognize that success comes down to informed decision making," Winquist says. "You make decisions based on context, and to do so your employees need empowerment and authority, and to be able to gauge the impact on the business as a whole, too. So, success depends on empowering your people to make good decisions as quickly as possible," he says.

Three Common Threads in Project Management Success

IT victors are committed to three things, according to Winquist:

Bringing their people in: They keep everyone connected along the journey of a product by providing more context around the entire process so each player has the same common vision and goal.

Empowering their teams: They understand people make better decisions when they understand the 'Big Picture' and when they're empowered; these people also want to give more discretionary effort.

Focusing on outcomes: They measure product launches through their ability to meet customer need and drive adoption (not just meeting deadlines); it's about creating a positive outcome and experience that moves the needle, Winquist says.

"One of the main challenges CIOs face is how to get project teams more engaged so they can spend their time innovating and creating rather than focusing on the minutia of their specific tasks and on putting out fires," Winquist says.


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