What Constitutes the Essence of Developing Great Project Teams?


The success of an organization is reliant on the operation and existence of “great project teams.” Do you remember the ease of operation and the power of those results of the “great” teams of which you were a member? What elements comprised the accomplishments and successes of your great team experience?

For anyone that has served on such a team, it was fundamentally an environment that created trust, strong interpersonal relationships, acceptance and compromise, synergy, and the power of positive outcomes or results. You would likely have experienced that your team did not start out by running or operating as a cohesive, fine-tuned group. The growth of “great” teams revolves around the maturity and development as the team evolves into a “learning organization.” The basic premise of these teams often requires a profound, dedicated openness to change that creates a “deep learning cycle” for members of the team.

Peter Senge states that the “deep learning cycle is the essence of the learning organization.” The elements of a deep learning cycle are focused on building or exploiting new innovations and capacities to enable the team to be a successful and well-trained entity. By excelling in this effort, members of the team are receptive to paradigm shifts of individual and group dynamics.

In the Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, there are three distinct processes which contribute to building the “deep learning cycle”. In order to establish the cycle, a team must examine and explore the need for “new skills and capabilities” to develop “new awarenesses and sensibilities” and lastly, to transform those elements into “new attitudes and beliefs”.

Within the area of new skills and capabilities, there are three natural groupings that enhance the progress toward being effective in achieving them. The first grouping for a team to focus upon is the aspiration and desire to obtain those skills and capabilities. Aspiration speaks to “the capacity of individuals, teams, and eventually larger organizations to orient themselves concerning what they truly care about and to change because they want to change.” Reflection and conversation constitute the second grouping needed to aid in the development of the team. The importance of this effort must focus on the concentration of settings that foster “real conversations.” Honest, open, and critical discussion must become the norm of the organization. “Learningful conversations require individuals capable of reflecting on their own thinking.” Fruitful accomplishment of this grouping is vitally important to the creation of a great team. Finally, the personnel involved in the creation of powerful teams must develop the capacity to understand the functions and operation of the systems in addition to the forces involved in their successful execution. “Conceptualization” is a vital component normally overlooked by traditional organizations. An integral process of achieving this element is to utilize systems thinking with a synchronized approach of “reflectiveness and openness” by working with the mental models created to form great teams.

It is essential to understand the importance of building our new skills and capabilities to guarantee achievement of building an effective team. Organizational achievement of building these skills and capabilities will allow movement toward establishment of the other two groupings essential for building the essence of a learning organization — ‘new awarenesses and sensibilities that build new attitudes and beliefs.’

Darryl Perkinson is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Katarina Hong

I love how you said the basic premise of great teams require a “profound, dedicated openness to change that creates a deep learning cycle for members of the team.” I completely agree that great teams grow and learn together and acquire new skills and knowledge that will guarantee achievement of building an effective team. Thanks for this post!