Grzegorz Ścisło

Vice-President of the Supervisory Board

Leading the project via the Management Team

Projects realised with a large budget require the oversight and control of the Management Team. Its role is to take over a significant part of the responsibility for the project being implemented, in close cooperation with the Project Director.

The 3 stages of a Project Director’s professional development and the need to create a Management Team

Creating a Management Team is a result of the Project Director’s maturity and experience. Mostly, the professional development in this position comprises of 3 stages:

Stage 1: Taking on the new role of Project Director for the first time: whilst the Director is becoming accustomed to their new role and the actual level of responsibility - he/she alone will undertake only 30-50% of the decision-making process. The rest of the decisions are made by the rest of the team members (project team, Management Board, etc.), often in a very incidental manner
Stage 2: Control over everything: thanks to the experience and confidence gained, the Director now feels the need to control all aspects of the project. 100% of the decision-making lands on their plate. Consequently, the Director now becomes a bottleneck. The project process - and so the decision-making process - becomes arbitrary by nature, and from this high level is not always the most effective and efficient possible
Stage 3: Creation of a Management Team: the Director now understands that given their broad scope of responsibility they need support. He/she alone takes 30-50% of the key responsibility for the project, with the rest being actively taken over by the Management Team. The director makes decisions in an interdisciplinary field, and now has the spare capacity to take over the reins of the project during moments of ‘turmoil’

Defining team members

A big project by its nature is realised by a wide group of people who play various roles that often intersect with each other. Such a project can move towards achieving business goals only when most people engaged in it will direct their energy and actions at the same, precisely defined objectives. Setting objectives and goals of the project involves taking on a big responsibility.

In the traditional paradigm, this responsibility is placed in the Project Director’s hands, who inevitably becomes a bottleneck and slows down the project. To address the problem, one should create a Management Team, a group of people who bear the responsibility. It consists of about 10 people who make crucial decisions in the project and at the same time take responsibility for them and requires from its members that these decisions are realized. In the project, the Management Team is the equivalent of the Board of Directors in a large enterprise, it also fulfils similar goals.

The first step in building a Management Team is to define potential candidates. For this purpose, we look carefully at each member of the project team and we qualify him/her to one of three groups (according to model by Stephen R. Covey):

  1. Dependent – they need to have defined tasks and a Dependent goal, as well as detailed instructions on how to plan and accomplish their tasks.
  2. Independent – need to set their own tasks and goals and can choose the best path to ensure these are accomplished
  3. Intradependent – is able to independently assign tasks and goals consistent with the overall goal and strategy of the project

We invite people qualified as Interdependent or (as a last resort) Independent. Naturally, these are Managers, Architects and Project Managers. The Project Director focuses on how to create the best possible conditions for the Management Team to develop, including the desired conditions under which the team can be established and then assimilated, thus encouraging the team to grow. Such conditions require the proper organisation of a selected group of people, time set aside for regular team design meetings and a location to meet in the form of a permanent room, therefore allowing the team to build a strong working relationship.

Building trust

The Management Team is nothing without real trust between its members. The Management Team will only work well and share their professional opinions sincerely if all members have the utmost confidence in each other. In order to build this trust, they must become partners who share co-responsibility for the project. In this group, there is always a Project Director, but his role is reduced to that of the moderator, the ‘games master’ who creates its structure. The members of the Management Team are equal in rights, duties and privileges. Everyone who plays the game is equal, including the Project Director. Trust allows you to expect members of the Management Team to be reliable and consistent, leading to the resolution of mutual obligations.

Such culture cannot be imposed but it can be built with tools such as:

  • Pre-workshop – encouraging everyone to work on their strengths and weaknesses and then share them in the public forum of the team. Such transparency will help build trust, as well as show everyone who they can turn to for help in certain situations
  • Workshops outside the company (question session) – during such team-building workshops, everyone can ask other team members a series of personal questions. Members cannot lie but can choose to avoid answering. Being able to relate to one another at a personal level helps strengthen ties
  • Workshops to define one common goal – here the team jointly determines the GOAL it wants to achieve when completing the project, through a form of a brainstorming and a series of controlled questions. After defining the goal all decisions in the project are undertaken in the context of this objective
  • Measuring one’s own level of accountability – a team member can more readily reflect on the amount of responsibility they have taken on if the team is built on trust. Here, its members are not afraid to be assertive with each other, calling others to account and thus reminding them of their duties

Time for the construction of the Management Team

From my experience, work on creating the conditions for the Management Team lasts many months. The Director, whose goal is to deliver the project, co-creates the Management Team whilst carrying out numerous other tasks in the project. As a criterion for success, the Project's ability to continue delivering according to the planned objectives, is determined by envisaging the prolonged absence of its Project Director.

The process of building a management team is long and never ends. It is founded on trust, which cannot be built ‘once and for all’. Maintaining trust in the Management Team is connected with the painstaking need for the Project Director to overcome the natural tendency of people to weaken the focus on the goal. The director must repeatedly focus attention on the goal, and brush aside anyone who seeks to dominate. The positive results of the Management Team's work are so significant that this extra investment always pays off.