Acknowledging the accepted team behavioral structure through project team norms is a recommended practice for Information Technology (IT) projects. The purpose of project team norms is to enable project team members to mutually develop and agree upon the professional and behavioral expectations of how their team will function to achieve its best performance for the project.
Define the set of assumptions, guidelines, and expectations held by the members of the project team about the kinds of behaviors that are expected within the project
Provide the basis of measurement for the personal and intra-team performance of project team members compared to company, business unit, and project team expectations
Provides the acknowledgment of known team "rules" that help guide the individual project team member's professional and behavioral performance
Provides a Total Quality participative process for developing consistent expectations of performance for the project team as a team
Enables the project manager to manage, direct, and measure individual and team performance
The project team norms document and updates should be filed in the project notebook.
The periodic project team review of team norms to ensure continued applicability and awareness should have changes or additions documented and distributed to all project team members.
Project Team Norms Process
Project team norms are defined as the set of assumptions, guidelines, and expectations held by the members of a team about what kinds of behaviors are considered good/bad, appropriate/inappropriate and allowed/not allowed.
The key learning points for the project team are that an effective team has behavioral patterns or norms that are:
Set by those affected
Open to all of the team for examination and change
Must fit the reality of the project organization.
Norms have often not been discussed openly or documented clearly. However, team members are expected to follow the expectations of team behavior. Thus, this lack of discussion and documentation often causes problems in matching actual to expected behavior.
Norms are a result from past experiences and critical incidents. They are usually grouped in two areas:
Explicit (i.e., visible) norms. Explicit norms are those norms that are well known, open and are verbalized or written down. This would include policies, procedures, guidelines, processes, or other formal communications telling people what is expected of them.
Implicit (i.e., invisible) norms. Implicit norms are those norms that are often unspoken expectations that people within an organization or a project team have of each other. This is illustrated by norms relating to dress code, speech, participation within the team, and work hours.
The process of defining and documenting project behavioral norms helps the project team function effectively by:
Defining by consensus the mutual expectations of individuals and the team
Building effective teaming in less time through the understanding and documentation of the set of team defined "rules"/expectations to work by
Documenting team expectations (i.e., the "plan") to measure "actual" performance against
Providing a document that communications the expectations of being on the team to new team members
Defining and documenting project team norms is most applicable to projects involving three or more members and lasting for at least several months. However, any project effort will benefit from a team agreement on the behavioral guidelines that are expected of the people individually and as a team.
Developing the Project Team Norms
The designated project manager should first review the project start-up process in the reference Guide. Then, as part of the preparation for early team building efforts, review the attached project team norms checklist.
The project manager would then plan a team building meeting shortly after selecting the core members of the project team. As a recommended approach, the project team norms are developed through brainstorming and participative discussion. The project manager or a trained outside person facilitates the team session.
The project team norms checklist is a starting point or guide to set a framework for typical behavioral areas being considered for your specific project. First, prioritize the applicable items on the checklist using a ranking of your choice. Determine other norms not listed that will be applicable within the project team. Then, in the order you determine, team members discuss and define in simple, concise terms the expectations about each area and reach consensus. This is an on-going, iterative process that will add value to the team efforts at various times during the project life.
Be sure to recognize both the company and business unit established norms, guidelines, policies, or rules that impact the project team's activity. These are generally not optional and should be clearly defined as expected behavior for company employees.
Advising the Team
After the team building meeting, document the results. Provide each team member with a copy of the agreed-to team norms document. See the attached simplified example after the checklist.
New members joining the project team should be given a copy of the team norms and review them with the project manager.
When an individual is not following the accepted norms of their team, informal discussion with the individual by the project team or the project manager should help to clarify the expectations and point out problems. Project teams can establish their own corrective actions or "friendly penalties" to bring about the desired accepted norms of the team. This "peer pressure" is generally most effective in changing behavior to that desired.
If there is serious deviation from the accepted norms, it is the responsibility of the project manager to take the appropriate actions to advise or counsel the individual who has not lived up to the accepted norms. Examples of this would be the falsifying of tests or records or the endangering other team members. Depending on the seriousness of the situation, the project manager should involve the individual's unit manager and the appropriate human resources manager to determine the necessary and legal courses of action.
Project Team Norms Checklist
This checklist of typical areas of behavioral norms is a worksheet for project teams to help define their accepted assumptions and expectations for project team performance. These are the result of the work by over 100 people in the project management classes who defined what norms have been experienced in their work. This list is not all-inclusive. The project team should determine any other areas or items appropriate for their project. The priorities of importance to your project are set by your team, except those that are explicitly company or unit directed. Priorities may be defined as high/medium/low or yes/no/not applicable/mandatory, or in numerical format.
Sample of Project Team Norms
Norms of the Team
Our project team is committed to the following team norms:
Participate and be prepared in project team meetings
Encourage decision making by consensus
Talk straight - share concerns, feedback, and feelings
Respect and value all ideas, equal rank
Critique ideas, not people
Deal openly with differences and conflicts
Communicate ideas, document results, decisions and approvals
Honor time commitments
Share recognition for successes
Norms of Each Team Member
Each project team member personally commits to the following team norms:
Work for consensus on decisions, objectives, and plans
Share openly and authentically with others regarding their feelings, opinions, thoughts and perceptions about issues, concerns, conflicts, and conditions
Believe in and be committed to the team goals and objectives over personal ones
Trust, support, and have genuine concern for other project team members
Listen to and interpret communications from the sender's point of view or need
Encourage the development of other team members
Respect and have tolerance of individual differences
Consider and utilize the ideas and suggestions of others
Utilize the knowledge and skills of team members
For referencing info about team norms for getting a group of individuals started as a new project team
For reviewing the effectiveness of team and other norms on a periodic basis (typically in team meetings)
Project Team Meetings
For maintaining a file copy in the project notebook
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