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Project Planning In Teams

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Project Planning in Teams

Elizabeth Sanchez

Introduction

Project planning in teams is an integral constituent of team dynamics. When a team has been already formed it is time for it to start working on a project in order to reach the goals of the team or company in a whole. It is necessary to keep in mind two peculiarities about team projects. The first peculiarity is that all projects no matter what their goals are need to be carefully planned and structured before the implementation. And the second peculiarity is that the given projects will be performed not by an individual but a group of individuals, which may result in a certain conflict of interests or other problems, which may be encountered while working with a group of people.

People have been working in teams for centuries accomplishing various tasks very successfully. However, only recently scientific researches have been conducted on the matter of teams, teams' performance and effectiveness and the accomplishment of new projects by so-called high performance teams. Results of scientific researches have proved that a team is clearly distinguished from a simple group of people by means of certain characteristic features. Also, it has been found that working in teams allows people to fulfill certain projects faster and more effectively, however, it is only possible when the new projects have been carefully planned and structured in advance.

The main goal of designing current study is to examine the process of project planning in teams as one of important aspects of team dynamics. The paper will focus on the elements of project planning, such as setting the goals, distributing responsibilities, surmounting obstacles and others. Advantages and disadvantages of working in teams will be analyzed further in the study, as well as evaluation of performance of teams as compared to groups of people and individuals.

Project Planning in Teams

Before analyzing the process of project planning in teams it is necessary to identify the differences between such terms as a group of people and a team. A group is a number of people (members) that are treated as one unit, while a team is a group of people who work together with a common goal and perform certain functions for the benefit of every member. There are special types of a team, known as high-performance teams, which are "groups of people that achieve a quantum leap in performance in less than a year" [1]. In order to build up a team, it is necessary to set the goals for the team and define the boundaries within which a team will be working. The key elements that are necessary for the creation of any team include several individuals willing to participate in team's activities, common purposes, time, financial resources and efforts from the side of every member. Also, all members of a team should posses a common vision and to be focused on the same objectives. The majority of teams are not only created for the process of project planning only, however, all team members take active part in direct implementation of the plan developed by the team. It is generally believed that important factors in creating and maintaining team effectiveness are "an informative and comfortable environment, participative discussion, attentive listening, consensus decision making and freely expressed ideas" [4].

As it has been stated above, project planning in teams is one of the important aspects of team dynamics as well as one of the essential steps of project management. Being a complex of assignments which need to be fulfilled by certain date, a project has a "specific objective to be completed within certain specifications, defined start and end dates, funding limits" [2]. According to the author of the book "Project Management: a System Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling" Harold Kerzner, project may consume "human and non human resources (i.e. money, people, equipment)" [2]. In its turn, project planning is one of the steps of project management, which includes setting the goals, scheduling, distribution of responsibilities, "definition of work requirements, definition of quantity and quality of work and definition resources needed" [2].

When the project planning is conducted for teams, it is also necessary to select the team members and decided what duties will be performed by each member of the team. It is commonly acknowledged that the planning process answers five basic questions: what, why, who, how and when. Project planning begins with "setting the project's objectives and thus defining the project's scope" [4]. This step answers the question "why". The second step involves determining "the specific tasks that will need to be accomplished - the "what" [4]. When the objectives and the tasks of the project are identified, it is time for the next step, which involves determining in what sequence the tasks will be accomplished. This step answers the question "how". The following step is to decide what assignments will performed by each of the team member - "who". And the last step answers the question "when", by finding out "an estimate of the time needed to accomplish each task and a project schedule needs to be determined" [4]. Major condition of effective planning is the necessity for all team members to agree upon the objectives of the project. If there is a leader in the team, who conducts most of the project planning, he/she needs to make sure that everybody understands what needs to be accomplished. It is rather effective to break the project into tasks, so every task can be performed by "a single team member or a small subgroup of the team" [4]. Also, it is important to consider all possible strategies and their advantages and disadvantages in order to choose the best one. When the strategy is chosen, it is necessary to assign the tasks to team members, who will bare full responsibility for their accomplishment.

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