Most projects are made up of several sub-groups of people. On a construction project you can imagine there is a group of people tasked with looking after the physical safety of people working on the site. You can also imagine another group that looks after checking that materials and installed units meet quality requirements. These sub-groups of people have interfaces with each other whereby they exchange and share information, documents and outcomes. They also provide and request support from other groups to start, complete and execute a process. Most of the time project inefficiencies occur across the interfaces with internal and external sub-groups or functions.
The best way to ensure efficiency and effectiveness across project interfaces is to increase transparency around assumptions that people have . Test whether they are accurate and understood by others on the project.
Note that project interfaces can also refer to processes that involve multiple functions in the home office environment or the company structure. These “external” groups to the project may be setting high-level processes and goals, which create the environment that the project team needs to operate in. Examples may include HR, Finance, the group that tracks compliance with corporate policies and procedures etc.
This team building activity that I am sharing helps various interfacing groups understand differences that may exist between how they think they should be interfacing with other groups and what the actual expectations from other groups are.
This activity can be used in many different ways:
- Clearing up interface issues among geographically dispersed groups working on the same processes or projects;
- Clarifying how different functions should interface with one another on a project;
- Clarifying any differences in perspective among cultural groups or different shifts of people in the same function working on the same tasks interfacing with one another; and
- Getting clarity on how multiple projects should interface with each other and/or the corporate groups they work with.
The reason that interfaces with other groups tend to be where delays and frustrations occur is because it is common for people to analyze and optimize processes only for the portion that they are responsible for. This perspective means they often overlook how their efforts impact others or how the efforts of others impact them and they fail to take the bigger picture into account. This activity will support efforts to improve the outcomes of inter-group processes as you work towards greater successes on your projects and initiatives.