Ground rules to set you up for success

Ground Rules to Set You up for Success
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Mahendra Gupta

Published on July 25, 2012


  • 8980 Views

Project management, today, has many challenges - the most important being people management. Managing people is not an easy task. Conflicts crop up among people everyday.

So what is the solution? 

It's simple - effective utilization of team ground rules.

Ground rules are policies and guidelines which a group establishes consciously to help individual members decide how to act. To be effective, ground rules must be clear, consistent, agreed-to, and followed.  Team ground rules define a behavioral model which addresses how individuals treat each other, communicate, participate, cooperate, and support each other in joint activities.  

A team should create and adopt written ground rules in the project planning stage. They should be added to and revised as and when required. Every project has a unique team and functional structure. Ground rules need to be defined considering project organization in detail. A few factors to be considered are:

- Team location: Location of the team is essential in defining ground rules. A combination of stationary and virtual teams would require additional ground rules.

- Team ethnicity: Consider the ethnicity of the team members and add few ground rules for effective team work.

- Project duration: Ground rules are important for any project irrespective of  the length of the project. Consider the length of the project for defining urgency of implementation.

- Team skills and expertise: Team members should have a mix of skills and expertise in the domain to ensure the success of a project.  

Project meeting

  • Be on time for all team meetings.
  • Team leader must create and disseminate agendas for each team meeting.
  • Team leader must create and disseminate minutes after each team meeting.
  • Attend full duration of all team meetings unless a case of emergency.
  • Avoid informal/social talk during team meetings.
  • Build in brief informal/social talk time before or after team meetings.
  • Be patient with alternative viewpoints, different kinds of learners, writers, & speakers.
  • No responsibilities to be assigned unless the person who is being assigned the responsibility accepts it. If a person to be given a responsibility is not at the meeting, the team leader must review that assignment or action item with the person before the responsibility is designated.
  • Set aside a regular weekly meeting time that’s kept open by all members from week to week.
  • Keep the meeting schedule flexible, arranging meetings as needed and based on availability.

Project decisions

  • Require consensus on all major team decisions.
  • Avoid apathetic/passive decision making (e.g., “whatever you all think is right”).

Project delivery

  • Inform team leader if unable to complete work on time.
  • Seek reader/listener feedback before handing in all deliverables.
  • Set deadlines for each deliverable in advance of due date to allow for collaborative revisions.

Team attitude and culture

  • Rotate responsibilities so each person gets experience with several aspects regardless of quality or qualifications.
  • Make criticisms constructive with suggestions for improvement and non-judgmental language.
  • Confront issues directly and promptly.
  • Promptly relay all interpersonal concerns/conflicts to team leaders.
  • Keep a positive attitude toward the team, individual members, projects and course.
  • Take initiative by offering ideas and volunteering for tasks.
  • Play an equal role in  the team by contributing equally to every task.
  • Be honest with any team member who is not pulling her/his weight.
  • Help one another with difficult or time consuming deliverables.
  • Ask for help from the team or other resources if “stuck” or falling behind.
  • Treat each other with respect.
  • Accept responsibility and accountability along with the authority given.

About the Author

Mahendra Gupta is a PMP and ISEB certified IT Consultant based in United Kingdom with more than 12+ years of experience in Business System Analysis and IT Project Management of wide range of projects within Banking and Trust Business sector.


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