Building High-Performing Teams

A project is a project. Traditionally, LeanProject has focused its efforts on helping construction and design projects get better. We have worked with some of the largest owners in the world to build new programs for delivering critical infrastructure to support their business operations and growth while developing their people. We have been very successful in helping teams in that space over the last 20 years.

Recently, we were asked to help an owner build a high-performing team to tackle a critical project in the pharmaceutical industry. This project had nothing to do with construction. The client had accepted a request to produce a critical COVID related drug and to begin producing it in a time frame that some in the organization thought was unachievable. There was a history of underperforming inside the company that was influencing the organization’s attitude toward the project. There was no time to be stuck in resignation – this was a critical project for the organization and the global effort to combat the pandemic.

Our approach to building a high-performing project team applies, in principle, to any project team. We focus on building the capacity to coordinate action through the management of promises while quickly building trust in the team. In a high performing team, the members make clear requests of each other and manage their promises as a serious responsibility. They are aware that all the technology in the world cannot overcome a team that does not deliver on their promises to each other and their customers. When we take care of our commitments to each other, we take care of not just the commitment but also the relationship. A high-performing team demonstrates care in everything they do.

On our recent pharmaceutical project, we brought together a team of people who constituted the leadership team for the project. We used our Essential ConversationsÔ for Project Success workshops to teach the team members how to make clear requests, secure and manage reliable promises, cultivate productive moods, and build and repair trust. As they practiced this new way of being, they were also learning how to take care of each other, the larger organization, and their customers. As part of our workshops and coaching, we produced a team that could share frank and timely assessments on what change was needed to improve the team’s coordination and move quickly toward their shared goal of producing a new drug.

Projects move quickly. Unlike a sustainable manufacturing environment, we are always moving toward an end date. On a project, we do things once that we will never do again on the project. We are always moving, and deadlines, and the consequences for missing those deadlines, are always present. To be successful in the project environment, we must be skilled at having conversations that produce action, make and secure reliable promises, and we must learn to build and rebuild trust as part of working together. At the center, we need to demonstrate care in everything we do. Teams that can do these things well produce world-class results, develop amazing people, and open up new possibilities for action.

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