Why is it important right now for us to double down on how our teams are evolving and working, how we’re collaborating and communicating?  

Garters’ 2023 CIO research reported that CIOs expect IT budgets to increase by 5.1% against a projected global inflation rate of 6.5%. From this same report, the top two objectives of CIOs were to improve operational excellence (53%) and improve customer or citizen experience (45%).  

This suggests that business leaders are looking to IT teams to extract greater value from existing tech stacks and to smooth the transition to operational adoption and mastery of systems.  

As project leaders, we strive to create and contribute to high-performing teams that can collaborate asynchronously and deliver the brief of the client effectively and at speed. It takes considerable and consistent effort to build high-performing teams. Once achieved, trying to maintain it is then the challenge. As with many things, the velocity of a team exists on a continuum and trying to stay in the top 2% is difficult when circumstances beyond your control interrupt. The framework is intended as a tool useful for self reflection and to give us as project participants and leaders a place to focus.  

“Roughly half of all senior IT leaders are now evaluated on employee productivity (52%), cost reduction and optimization (50%), and customer (48%) and employee experience (46%).”1 You as the project leader set the tone, so it’s in your interest to create the best environment possible for your team to thrive.  

Moving From Resistance to Collaboration – From Group to Team 

So how does your team stack up? Where do you see yourselves on this continuum? When we’re dealing with challenges in project teams we figure out where they are on this framework and adjust our focus accordingly.  

Collaboration Effect in Project Teams

Resistant groups display a lack of trust in the project vision or ways of working. They might be lacking clarity on the purpose of the project, have previous experiences that didn’t work out or be just plain overloaded. They are either actively or passively pushing against the objectives and purpose of the project.  

Focus on building awareness of how that behaviour is impacting the project, them, and their team. Work on building better communication, clarifying purpose and establishing more trusting relationships. This allows the group to move towards a more direct-able way of working.  

Groups that need direction are characterised by personal inertia; they are waiting for instructions. People don’t believe that they have agency in the project. They don’t understand their own role in leading and are waiting for ‘someone’ to step in or to tell them what’s next and how to do it.  

Focus on clarity of technique and the way that you’re operating. Build on the communication and trust foundations. Roles, responsibilities and relationships need to be reviewed and established together.  Directive forms of leadership from the project sponsor, board and manager can get the project team organised. Ways of working and communication methods will need work and rework in this state, the team needs to develop ownership of the project.  

As the group moves through this, they being to develop more cooperative team interactions.  

Cooperative teams are characterised by a level of clarity of working processes. Clear practices have been established and the team understands the purpose of the project and their part in it. Instead of waiting for or needing direction cooperative groups are developing autonomy.  

Focus on refining the momentum and self-lead working practice.  Refine the project purpose, roles responsibilities and relationships, the purpose and cadence of meetings and methodologies. Refine expectations for behaviours and ways of working.  

As the team develops a cooperative practice, they move towards being able to reflect on how their own progress and the progress of the team and project. This leads to openness and willingness to experiment with different ideas and ways of working. 

Accountable teams are characterised by a base of cooperative working practice that has settled enough to give space for review and optimisation of ways of working. They have familiarity, trust, clarity and confidence in their communication, leading to the ability to experiment with ideas and different ways of working.  

Focus on optimisation. In agile working practice, a retrospective is held after each sprint to refine and improve; this practice applies to any form of learning experience. Reflecting on what was done, what went well and how we can improve, align and optimise builds better working flow. Areas that are working like a well-oiled machine need encouragement and acknowledgement of the progress. Areas that are not working so easily need thought and consideration to reframe the approach. Through trial and learning experience teams that experiment with ways of working to sustain being accountable to the intention of the project develop a truly collaborative practice. 

Collaborating teams are characterised by, high levels of understanding and trust, clarity on the purpose of the project alignment and a pace that’s well-matched. This state, to me, is more of an aspirational guide than anything. It’s always helpful to have something to aspire to even if we fall short of the ideal. I have worked in teams where this has been achieved for periods of time.  

Focus on governance and on codifying the ways of working and the knowledge and practices of the team. Spreading the practice further in a business is always an option too.  

Moving up the scale to the nirvana of smooth collaboration requires of us clarity in communication. It requires us to be as clear and as detailed as we can about expectations. It needs mature and reflection of people who can own their part in a situation and be open to different points of view and experimentation.  

“The world is changed by your example not your opinion.”

Paul Coelho 

If your teamwork or project is not running to plan, book a call with 6R Retail today and let’s work together to drive technological and transformational change for your business. Our experts will help you identify where your team falls on the collaboration continuum, and work with you to build a high-performing team that delivers results.