It is essential to transform a group of individuals, new hires and like-minded people into an effective winning team capable of dealing with the inevitable bumps, challenges and difficulties all the way to success. After many years of observing and mentoring students and young innovative startups and projects, I have developed my own formula, which I call i-STORM: INFORMING, STORMING, TRENDING, OUTLINING, REFORMING AND MEASURING.
Here are the six i-STORM steps that you can use for effectively managing your teams…
INFORMING about goals and objectives of the program
Every major textbook on project management suggests the importance of establishing an appropriate information system to deliver information to all relevant stakeholders and team members. This comprehensive information flow is especially imperative in the early stage of establishing and managing your team. Winning teams have crystal-clear knowledge and understanding of goals, procedures and deadlines: every single team member knows not only about the goals and objectives of the team but also about modes of communicating and seeking information both horizontally and vertically. Both traditional teams and e-teams (as more and more groups and organizations work remotely) should establish effective multiple channels of (e-)communication including team and individual face-to-face interactions in-office or online, using popular social media platforms, trendy apps and visualizing gadgets, and even experimental bots and digital robo-managers.
STORMING the best team ideas
Old wisdom about strategic planning acknowledges that the idea might be perfectly smooth on paper, but real life presents many rough bumps. Joint discussion and brainstorming of ideas and action steps not only helps to discover many new angles and innovative ideas but also bonds people together and contributes to developing a team spirit. Most importantly joint team presentations, planning meetings and joint work on the adjustment of initial plans contributes to maintaining a better working environment within the team, and significantly improves the sense of belonging and purpose. Please note that brainstorming exercises might be time-consuming, but at the end of the day, they help to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of team members as well as external opportunities and threats.
TRENDING the routine
After the initial stage of establishing the team, defining communication modes and brainstorming a consensus about goals and objectives, the team needs to settle down to an everyday work routine. Every team needs to establish its day-to-day operational mode and follow certain rules and norms for engagement and executing various activities. Every team member should know about her/his personal strengths (and be praised for them) as well as duties, entitlements and responsibilities, including digital responsibilities in an (e)team. This trending step includes among other things establishing an operational problem-solving and conflict resolution mechanism to deal effectively with differences in perceptions and attitudes of all individuals at each step, especially in multicultural teams.
OUTLINING best practices
It does not matter how many times we launch new projects and build new teams, each and every project and team is going to be different. Therefore, it is important to define what works the best and what does not work right from the beginning, and inaugurate a transparent mechanism for rewarding achievers (best manager or trainer of the week!) and keeping up positive vibes (free coffee or wine anyone?). This is an ongoing process and regular face-to-face team meetings or – in the current COVID-19 environment – regular online meetings for evaluation and monitoring are essential in working on improving (e)team performance. Regular meetings are also vital for getting all team members on board, as these consultations on best practices and best achievers contribute to developing a healthier working environment where people feel valued.
REFORMING the procedures
Every team should have time and opportunity to re-evaluate procedures and the effectiveness of ongoing working practices in order to improve the managerial process, and reform or adjust the project to emerging realities and challenges within the project itself and within the project environment. Getting the team together for an informal coffee-break discussion or for formal consideration of possible improvements might help to identify shortcomings and define best practices. There are many tools that can help in this reforming process, such as a Japanese project management tool called “kaizen.” Kaizen (which translates as "improvement") aims at improving management, productivity and the functions in a project by involving all employees from top to bottom through a range of means, from small group discussions (or group teleconferences with (e)teams members during COVID19 era) to collecting individual innovative ideas.
MEASURING the results
Early on, the project team needs to establish the routine that will be used to measure and collect all data for the project, including measuring the contribution of individual team members. Having comprehensive data, facts, photos, case studies, results of surveys and/or workplace interviews is essential for measuring the progress and development of both the entire team and individual team members. When a team comes together – especially a large project team – visually presented data makes it possible to comprehend many aspects of team improvement over time; progress can be visualized through transparent numbers and tables. This data is also critical for preparing initial, mid-term or final reports and testimonies in the process of finalizing projects, as project managers assess who to take with them when they move on to the next project.