Twelve Characteristics of Ineffective Teams – Part 1

Posted by Brad Egeland

In Part 1 of this two-part series well examine the first six of twelve team characteristics that I believe seem to point toward ineffectiveness.  By no means is this an end-all list, but it’s a decent start and will hopefully help us all see warning lights early enough on in our projects to make the necessary changes to fix the situation before it’s too late.

No processes for gaining consensus or resolving conflicts. Team conflicts and overt and covert discussions are ongoing occurrences, making cooperation difficult, even impossible. When this happens it appears that the project manager has lost all control of the team and that indeed may be the case.  Getting back on track become more difficult the longer this persists.

Team members who lack commitment to the goal. No one has an emotional attachment to the goal.  And without that goal focus there is no real drive for the team – no ownership of tasks and pride in successful outcomes.  Soon, no one really cares.

Lack of camaraderie. The team members do not feel that they are part of a team. Instead, everyone acts in his or her own interests.  This is a bad direction for a team to head as it can lead to rogue actions and behavior, dissention, conflict, and even straying from completing one’s tasks.

Lack of openness and trust. Everyone is guarded, protective of his or her own interests. Openness and truthfulness are perceived as yielding to someone, giving a competitive advantage, or exposing vulnerabilities. When this happens, idea sharing is at a minimum and that is never good if you want to be part of a successful, cohesive team on a successful project.

Vague role definitions. The reporting structures and responsibilities are unclear, causing conflicts. Territorial disputes and power struggles occur often.  If this happens, responsibility falls completely on the shoulders of the project manager.  Communication, assignments, delegation, authority, and the definition of project roles begins and ends with the project manager.

No commonality or cohesiveness. The team is an unorganized grouping of people. No one feels a sense of community. No common ground exists other than to meet periodically to work. This results in lost synergy.  When this happens, you may find one person taking an active lead role, but the rest of the team may be completely unfocused.  It is highly unlikely that a team with this problem will reach a successful project completion.

In Part 2, we’ll examine the final six of twelve characteristics of ineffective teams for this two-part series.

Information for this article was derived, in part, from Kleim and Ludin’s book entitled, “Project Management Practitioners’ Handbook.”

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