“Hey Coach, I Passed!”

Home The Savvy PM Blog “Hey Coach, I Passed!”

102 I just got an email message from a participant in last week’s 3-day Velociteach class about how to pass the PMP® Exam.

The message starts off, “Hey Coach,   I PASSED! …”

I celebrate his success on the exam, too!  Even though I “coached” an entire class, the exam is individual effort – not a team sport!

Our project teams, on the other hand, are VERY team oriented.  As project managers, we should go great lengths to promote a cohesiveness and unity that binds our teams together to function as one unit – like a well-oiled machine.  It takes time and effort to build a team to that level of performance.  In fact, Bruce Tuckman, a psychologist and professor at Ohio State University, published his theories of team development stages and how a team approaches such a level of performance.

The PMP® candidate may see questions about Tuckman’s Stages related to the knowledge area of Human Resource Management and leadership skills.  Tuckman states that teams may mature through five stages:

  1. Forming
  2. Storming
  3. Norming
  4. Performing
  5. Adjourning

The Forming stage may be very peaceful, with the leader being very “telling” or directing, possibly the only person who really possesses the “big picture” of the project at this point.  Team members begin to understand their roles and relationships with others on the team.

The Storming stage follows Forming, and some teams may never get out of this stage!  The team begins to perform activities, but role delineation may not be clear enough yet to avoid their bumping into each other!  Conflicts may arise that mandate that the leader continue somewhat in a directing manner until the dust settles and team members better understand each other’s responsibilities.

The Norming stage hopefully soon follows the Storming stage, with team members beginning to find more productivity in teamwork.  As the synergy builds and the team behavior finds “norms” or expected standards, the leader may become more of a coach, more participative in his style rather than autocratic.

The Performing stage is reached when the team is functioning like a unit with single-mindedness and purpose.  The capabilities of the team exceed the total sum of the individuals on the team – a gestalt where the total is greater than the sum of the parts.  The leader contributes as a facilitator, providing oversight and as well as delegation as needed.  This stage features the optimal performance of the team.

The Adjourning stage completes the team life cycle, in which members are released at the termination of the team’s objective.  The leader may exhibit a supportive role to offset the difficulties of change management and emotional separation of a team that may have grown to be very close.  The leader may also need to encourage an emotionally stressed team to complete the goal, to work to completion during this stage.

The Contingency Theory of motivation revolves around the concept that the effectiveness of a leader’s style is contingent on the situation in which it is applied.  As the situation changes during the project life cycle, so does the optimum style of leadership, in keeping with the specific stages of the team life cycle.

As you prepare for the PMP® Exam experience, be sure your study includes the stages of the team life cycle and the respective leadership style.  As a team leader, you may need to be directing, coaching, facilitating, supporting, and encouraging!