Sparks from a sparkler

Three Tips for Managing Functional Teams

I’ve found that there are three steps to managing a functional team effectively. While these tips apply to functional teams specifically, they really apply to anyone managing a project with a group of people, timelines, and expectations. (And what project doesn’t have those three elements?)

1. Establish a clear communication structure up front.
Outlining a communication plan provides at solid platform for setting clear expectations and defining roles and responsibilities. The communication plan should include team meetings; status reporting; quarterly business reviews; travel; the frequency of the communication (weekly, monthly, daily/time); the audience (team members, department or branch); the delivery method (email, conference call, SharePoint); and the person responsible for the communication.

The communication plan creates a framework from which to structure and steer the management of the team – internal and functional – while maintaining accountability with those responsible for implementing the plan. For a project manager on a functional team at a client site, I provided a communication plan that outlines how often he and I would meet; what day and time; the objective of our call; and who is expected to attend. This structure has made the team status reporting easy and efficient for everyone.

2. Prepare a detailed onboarding plan.
This has been a critical lesson learned as well. The project kickoff week may be the only time the functional team has the chance to interface with each other and the client on site. Ensuring the team has the hardware and software they need compatible to the client environment, along with proper invoicing and timekeeping set up, are all critical to the success of the team hitting the ground running. Hardware and software issues on a project can lead to months of project start delays. Scheduling weekly check in meetings with the project manager and/or the individual team members helps you keep a pulse on the projects they’re working on.

3. Providing constructive, regular feedback.
This gives you the opportunity to address issues that come up sooner rather than later. I think we can all relate to the carefully planned project that still gets waylaid by an unexpected curve ball. With constructive, regular feedback in place, those curve balls don’t cause as much damage as they might if you leave them unaddressed.