Successful multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) do not happen automatically -- and no exact formula for building, developing and guiding MDTs is known.
A number of elements, however, must be present to ensure success.
Figure 1 (right) lists ten elements found in successful MDTs. This list is based on our observations of more than 75 teams. In addition to our own experience in building or helping to build MDTs, we have incorporated observations from more than 200 managers, supervisors, team leaders and team members from 30 successful teams -- and two teams that failed economically.
The top two reasons for success or failure of MDTs is the involvement of management. Middle and senior managers must commit to and support team effort.
It is not enough to organize people into groups and call them teams. Management must be sure that a team effort is needed for a project -- and then must:
- Help formulate team goals and objectives.
- Make sure that teams have the resources needed.
- Help create the proper work environment for synergy and creativity to take place.
- Delegate enough authority to the team -- including monetary authority -- to accomplish the project.
- Be available -- especially middle managers -- as coaches or mentors to sort out priorities amongst teams.
Middle managers can be serious detriments to team success. After all, managing teams is hard work, and the team process can threaten amanager's position and authority. Still, strong commitment and support of middle managers is essential for team success -- without their buy-in, team success is almost impossible.
Every project needs clear goals and objectives that team members understand and are committed to follow. Team members should help in the development of project goals and objectives -- and once agreed to, team members must develop the work plan to ensure on-time completion.
Good communications are critical for team success. Open communications in all directions -- upward, laterally and downward -- create the bridge over which team members share ideas, create synergy, build effective working relationships, arrive at the best decisions and keep management informed.
If communications are not effective, bridges turn into barriers.
One method that fosters effective communication is creation of team rooms, which contain all the project data and material, and is where the team members work together.
Another method is very short weekly team meetings. A published agenda keeps discussions and decisions on track. The value of these meetings is to create the opportunity for cross-stimulation to generate new and innovative ideas and short cuts. Meeting notes are recorded, reviewed and approved by all team members. The notes are valuable because they focus on progress, highlight problems that need to be solved and are useful to keep management informed.
How many projects or jobs can team members commit to? That question has no easy answer. The consensus among people who work, supervise and work in teams is that team members have great difficulty working on more than two, high-priority projects at the same time.
And when teams are committed, failure of another team member not to perform and meet deadlines is frustrating.
Commitment of individual team members to project goals, objectives and work is an obvious critical element to team success. Individuals must focus their efforts for the good of the team.
Good team leadership is required for effective project management, including keeping projects on schedule and meeting deadlines. The team leader also has the dual role of helping the teams make decisions as well as contributing personal expertise. The team leader is responsible to see that the team achieves the proper balance between project planning and work, and make sure that time is available to accomplish the goals, objectives and work.
Clearly, the leader is critical to team success.
For project success most of the above mentioned elements must happen -- including that team members must have the know-how and proper experience to accomplish the work. Experienced team members can help accelerate the development of the less-experienced team members.
Team Recognition and Rewards
Everyone wants to contribute to programs and projects, especially successful ones. Most workers, supervisors and managers also want some type of recognition from their colleagues and bosses acknowledging their contributions.
It is human nature to want this! Recognition is a strong motivator and is great for building good individual and team esprit de corps.
Many team members express concern about working in teams, especially if they report to a team leader or manager from a different discipline. Members wonder if their contributions will be recognized properly. Also of concern is that, by working in a team, will they have equal opportunity to advance, receive salary increases and training?
On the other hand, people not working in teams wonder if they will be at a disadvantage for promotions, salaries and training opportunities.
How can management alleviate these concerns?
Some companies have formed "Management Advisory Groups" (MAGs) composed of managers that represent the disciplines in the teams. In addition to the manager's responsibility for overall project direction, career development and technical advice, they evaluate the team and individual performance.
Managers also conduct performance reviews of the individual team members in their function. In some companies, to ensure people are treated the same as if they were not in teams, team leaders and managers receive individual appraisals from the other team members.
This added evaluation helps ensure that objective evaluations are made by the people who interact and work daily with the team members.
Management has used a number of ways to reward teams and team members such as:
- Letters of "thank you" from team leaders, supervisors and managers.
- "Thank you" lunches or dinners (especially those including spouses).
- Awards and certificates of achievement (Figure 2).
- Gifts (such as watches).
- Paid or partially paid educational leaves.
- Cash bonuses or stock.
Working in a team can be a challenging process and difficult labor. But there is professional satisfaction from working on an entire project, working with colleagues from different backgrounds, learning new technologies and accomplishing solutions to difficult projects through teamwork.
One major oil company has reduced its salaries for all professionals and middle management from being in the top tier to the middle tier (compared to its peer competitors). They give a one-time bonus each year, which is a percent of the net profit determined at the end of each year. That is, the senior management wants to encourage participation in sharing of profits that results from improvements in productivity and profitability. This compensation applies to people working in teams as well as those who work as individuals.
These forms of recognition are of a nominal cost to the company, but can add a lot of employee satisfaction.
One of management's challenges is to recognize and reward exceptional performance to help motivate the teams -- but not to the point where the company's performance versus reward system is knocked out of balance.
Obtaining maximum performance of individuals and teams is a major goal.
The results of integrated, multidisciplinary teams in E&P are impressive. MDTs have demonstrated the ability to make significant contributions by minimizing costs, maximizing productivity and increasing profitability.
Teams help develop the full potential of a company's discoveries, properties and people through the judicious use of appropriate technology and the smarter use of people's time.
In addition, people working in teams create new, innovative ideas and solutions generally not possible from individual effort.
MDTs have proven an efficient and effective way to conduct E&P business now and in the future. Some experts in the field of business organizations predict that over 40 percent of the E&P work force in the next decade will work in some type of team environment.
Many complex technical problems can only be solved by MDTs. Also, the rapid evolution of new technology is changing the way we think about the best way to organize people to solve problems.
In the future, oil and gas E&P companies will continue to operate in a global, highly competitive business world. Companies that use MDTs to solve complex problems and equip themselves with the latest technology should be able to compete more effectively.