The Virtual Project Team

By: Brian Tracy

When I began studying time management some years ago, I was amazed to discover that all great accomplishments are the result of multi-task jobs. Everything worthwhile is achieved by a variety of people coming together to perform a variety of jobs, all of which are coordinated and sequenced together to achieve a final result. Today, this model of the virtual corporation or the virtual team is becoming the key to success in both individual and business life.

A perfect example of the virtual project team would be the video crew that makes my video training programs. This crew consists of about 10 people, most of whom know each other but all of whom work independently from each other.

This is the way this type of team comes together. When I decide to create a training program, I negotiate an agreement for the finished product with a person who becomes the project’s executive producer. The executive producer knows where to find the key people to make up the team. And here is an important point: selection is 95 percent of success in management.

For you to select the right people, you must be clear about the key result areas and the standards of job performance. Most people judge themselves on the basis of what they feel they are capable of doing in the future, but you must only judge people based on what they have actually accomplished in the past. The inability to choose people well for a team can lead to under-achievement and failure.

The executive producer of the film crew will then begin hiring the individual members of the video shooting team. First, he or she will hire three cameramen, who come complete with state-of-the-art camera equipment that they either own or rent for this project. Then there will be lighting and sound specialists. A combination carpenter and designer will be hired to concept and build the set for the video project. A floor director will be selected who will coordinate the activities of the cameramen, the people appearing in the video shoot, the sound person, the light person, and the designer.

In addition to these people, there will be an editor and mixer who will sit in the video sound booth and mix the project as it is shot and edit it afterwards. Finally, there will be a make-up specialist who prepares each of the performers for the shoot.

This makes for a total of 10 people, all specialists who are brought together to focus on the production of a single video project. The actual shoot itself can take anywhere from two hours to two weeks. When it is over and everyone has done their jobs, the crew shakes hands and disperses in different directions, going on to join other crews for other video shoots under other circumstances.

In corporations today, the continuous formation and dissolution of these virtual teams is becoming the norm for achieving goals. People who specialize in their fields are brought together under a team leader to perform a function or do a job and then disperse to become members of other teams performing other functions. It is into this constant formation and reformation of teams that you must integrate yourself so that you can maximize your capacity to make a significant contribution wherever you work.

Peter Drucker, in his book Managing in a Time of Great Change, points out that there are three different types of teams, each of which is appropriate for the achievement of specific goals.

The first type of team is the baseball team model. A surgical team in an operating room, or even a video crew working as a team, fall into this category.

In this model, the players have specific positions on the team that they never leave. They do not have interchangeable positions: the cameraman is always a cameraman, the shortstop is always a shortstop, etc. They may work together in harmony, supporting and assisting each other, but they always play their specific, designated role in their area of specialization. In this baseball team type of model, each performer can be evaluated and rewarded independently of the others.

The second type of team is the football team model. This is a little different from the baseball team in that each player has a specific role but they all work together in parallel to contribute their talents to the achievement of a single goal. In the football team model, there is a coach who calls the plays, there is a team against which they compete, and there is a specific goal to be achieved. The members work very closely with each other to move the ball down the field.

The third type of team is the tennis doubles model. This team functions like a jazz combo, with the players harmonizing all their activities, but with each player in charge of a specific instrument. Each person has a fixed position, based on their area of specialization, but they also cover for each other and respond as a team to the changes being driven on the outside by the explosion of information, technology, and competition.

The one thing all these teams have in common is that they must enjoy a high degree of harmony and trust if they are to function at their best. The principle of synergy says that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Five or six people working together in complete harmony toward a common goal can produce the work of 10 or 15, or even 20 people who are disorganized or working at cross purposes.

None of these teams can substitute for each other. Each of them is based on individuals performing in coordination with each other, but a baseball team model cannot substitute for a football team model. And neither of these models can substitute for a tennis doubles model. One of the most important jobs you have is to determine the type of team that you are either putting together or serving on.

A team is a tool with a specific purpose. Each team has its own use, its own characteristics, its own requirements, and its own limitations. Each team is formed to achieve a specific goal of some kind.

Remember, on every team, the 80/20 Rule applies. 80 percent of the work is done by 20 percent of the people. Your goal is to be among the 20 percent of the team players who do 80 percent of the work. And never worry about who gets the credit. Everyone always knows who the key team players are. In fact, the more you give the credit away to others, the more you will get back for yourself.

Your ability to integrate yourself into your organization and be an excellent team player will do more to earn you the respect of others and open doors of opportunity than you can possibly imagine. The winners and high achievers in every area of life throw themselves wholeheartedly into whatever they commit themselves to doing. They start a little earlier, work a little harder, and stay a little later. They look upon every assignment as an opportunity to grow in both experience and reputation. And they recognize that every job they do carries their own personal signature on it for everyone to read.