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How to Perform Your Team Role Within Your Bandwidth – Part I

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” – Arthur Ashe

Get clarity about your role. In preparing for your work on the task force, committee, or project team, ensure that you and your team are clear, and are in agreement about one another’s roles, and prepare accordingly. Be willing to learn new roles when needed; this will increase your flexibility AND value to the team.

Navy Seals, the unit that eliminated Osama Bin Laden, have very precise, practiced roles for each person. Each member knows his or her role, as well as the roles of others. Part of the role of each of the Navy Seals is to control fear and panic in the face of life-threatening situations. They are given rigorous training, because there is rarely a second chance to accomplish any particular mission.

People were assigned to the Apparel Accelerator Project by the business sponsor before the kick-off meeting. Members of the team were selected to represent their group, such as development, procurement, and materials. Then the project leader met with people to ensure that they were clear about their roles. Because of the project’s high priority, the best people were chosen whenever possible.

During the Apparel Accelerator Project, there were between ten and twenty people working. Roles were clearly defined. For example, the person in charge of materials was responsible for determining requirements for entering materials information in the new system. She was available for 25 percent of her work week. Some were assigned for two half-days per week, or 20 percent of their time. Others such as product managers, materials managers, or designers had subject matter expert roles appropriate for these jobs, and helped define how they would be performed in the new system. No one was assigned to the project for 100 percent of their time.

Desirable traits for a teammate at New Balance: (1) has a vision to do it differently and better, and revolutionize the approach; (2) is respected and well known, and can get people excited about the project; (3) has strong business or technical skills; (4) is a good team player, and (5) has the ability to act as a change agent to get users of the system to accept it.

How do team roles interrelate on your team? Job titles should not interfere with roles or with team functioning. Like most projects, some, but not all of the team members are doing their jobs at the beginning of the project. Some begin work after the tasks of any specified predecessor(s) are complete—their work is necessarily sequential.
There may be certain roles on the project that can be performed in any sequence, and that need little if any coordination. Maybe it is a task that can be done at any point in a project before the project ends. For example, on a landscaping project, the team decided to leave an existing shrub where it was. However, they will need to trim the shrub at some point in the project before the project is complete. This task is an Individual/Solo Effort, and is placed near the far left on the continuum as shown below.

ISE = Individual, Solo Effort
C/SE = Coordinated and/or Sequential effort
SSE = Simultaneous, Synchronized effort

Teamwork Interaction Continuum for a Project

Teamwork Interaction Continuum for a Project

On a project team there are always dependency relationships between some or all of the tasks. When certain work is complete, or partially complete, a successor task can begin. This is a type of coordinated, sequential work. For example, before you can upload information to your website, you must obtain a website. The tasks are sequential. Then, while the website shell is built, different team members can work on different pages simultaneously, while others can be gathering company data and identifying necessary interfaces and links. These simultaneous, parallel roles are not synchronized because they may not start or finish at precisely the same time

Part II will focus on bandwidth.

Thomas Charles Belanger is the author of Teamwork in Ten Days: Building Successful Teams in the Arts, Sports, Business, and Government, available at and Barnes and Noble.

©2012, Thomas Belanger

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