Creative teamwork

In order for the whole project to be successful, each part of the project must be successful, and all the parts must work together. In that way, there really is only one team.


In order for the whole project to be successful, each part of the project must be successful, and all the parts must work together. In that way, there really is only one team. Courtesy: Maverick TechnologiesLast night I dreamed about St. Isidore of Seville. In my dream he explained, “I’m here to give you a look at the afterlife.” I replied, “I’m glad to meet you, St. Isidore. You’re a good choice of guide for someone in process automation!” He laughed and said, “True, but I almost couldn’t make it, there’s a bad computer virus going around.” 

He continued, “Now, which would you like to see first, Heaven or Hell?” Thinking it might be best to have the bad news first, I asked him to show me Hell.

He took me to an enormous banquet hall. The tables were groaning with wonderful food that smelled fabulous. All the people there had forks and spoons strapped to their hands, but all the utensils were three feet long! The people were miserable. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

“I’ve seen enough!” I cried, “Show me Heaven!” St. Isidore took me to another banquet hall.  There also, the tables were full of wonderful, fabulous smelling food. There also, the people had spoons and forks three feet long strapped to their hands. But no one was unhappy. In Heaven, the people were feeding each other.

I woke up thinking about project teams.

My work in process automation has taken me into many interesting projects, with correspondingly interesting situations and people. Primarily, my contacts have worked directly for my customer. Often, however, people from other contracting companies are involved. If the relationships are managed haphazardly, it can easily lead to an ongoing Dance of the Rival Contractors: leaps to conclusions, shuffling of responsibilities, waving of arms, pointing of fingers.

This is not a dance that moves the project forward.

What does move the project forward is choosing to regard all the people on a project as one team, regardless of their company affiliations.  

Anyone can start this process. One way is thoroughly communicating information broadly: “Oh, by the way, here’s a motor schematic you might find useful” or “That piece of equipment on the drawing doesn’t exist in the field anymore.” or “You know, we track that in our database.  It would be easy to send you reports.”  Of course, the customer contact would be on any distribution list.  

Another way to demonstrate this choice is to keep an eye out for the messier edges of the scope. Identifying possible gaps and taking action to bridge them can prevent unpleasant surprises, particularly at the end of the project. In many cases, just drawing attention to the gap is enough to get the process for addressing it started.  

Leading by example is a good strategy. Digging in with your three foot fork and offering another team member some of the green bean casserole can help influence others to think of the whole project team as one team. It may not lead to extra information coming your way. But if your efforts contribute to overall success, that has a positive impact on your part of the project. And it’s a funny thing—customers notice success.

In order for the whole project to be successful, each part of the project must be successful, and all the parts must work together. In that way, there really is only one team.

Sartre claimed, “Hell is other people.” But Heaven can be other people too. Which place does your project team look like? And would you like a bite of these mashed sweet potatoes? They’re delicious!

This post was written by Mayann Stroup. Mayann is a senior engineer at Maverick Technologies, a leading automation solutions provider offering industrial automation, strategic manufacturing, and enterprise integration services for the process industries. Maverick delivers expertise and consulting in a wide variety of areas including industrial automation controls, distributed control systems, manufacturing execution systems, operational strategy, business process optimization and more.

Maverick Technologies is a CSIA member as of 7/20/2015

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