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Working Together Well

Let’s say we’re on a project team. We haven’t worked together before. Maybe we normally work in different organizations. There’s important work to do, and we’re the ones to do it.

06-20 Pink Hydrangea
Working Together Well

Also, we have a clear goal to create something. Our work requires contributions from the whole team.

Let’s make this go as smoothly as we can (barring outside forces beyond our control).

One key way to do this is to make it obvious who is in charge of what. With clear roles and responsibilities, it’s easier for us to do what we’re supposed to do because…

  • I’m doing this. We each know what we’re responsible to do (and we’ve agreed to do it).
  • You’re doing that. We each know what to expect from everyone else, especially where there are dependencies, handoffs, or collaborative efforts.
  • Nothing’s falling through the cracks. We have assigned (or will assign) someone to everything that has to be done.
  • We know “by when.” There’s a schedule of deliverables and due dates.
  • Here’s how we say “Yes.” We have a process for reviewing and approving work.
  • Here’s what to do when we don’t agree. We know if we must find a consensus, or if we’ll vote on alternatives, or who can make the final call.
  • This is how we’ll communicate. The tools we’ll use, how often, who has access, where we’ll keep the schedule, key documents.
  • Someone is leading this effort. This person keeps the goal in mind, delegates work, makes sure the roles and responsibilities are clear, and generally facilitates accomplishing the project plan.
  • We have a sponsor. We have a goal, permission, and the required funding to proceed. Our sponsor can remove roadblocks and will assist with communication and change issues.

It’s helpful if everyone on the team takes responsibility for working together well. In some organizations you can pick any 5 to 25 people, put them on a team, and they automatically organize themselves to work together smoothly. In other situations, there’s an uncomfortable amount of jockeying to establish who will do what. So a key is to establish norms for everyone to follow in working together well. Making the roles and responsibilities clear from the start is a huge help in making that happen.


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