Regardless of the size of your business, groups brought together to solve problems share the same characteristics and dynamics. To function well and complete assigned projects, a team must have strong leadership, a unified commitment and good internal communications. The attitudes and skills team members bring to the group determine the project's success. Roles and responsibilities may be formally assigned, but informal roles also emerge.
An interdisciplinary group is brought together to solve a specific problem, and the small business owner is typically the project director who has ultimate authority over the project. His responsibility is to obtain funds and any necessary resources. While he may participate in the group activities, his involvement is generally at a higher level. The stakeholders of the project are all those people -- management, employees, suppliers and customers -- who may be affected. The project director is their liaison.
The project manager is central to the success of the team. His style of leadership should be collaborative and motivational; democratic leadership works better than autocratic. The project manager should participate with the team members as a first among equals. He should be adept at maintaining communications between the group members and proficient at dealing with problem issues rather than suppressing them. Depending on the size of the team, there may be a facilitator to assist the manager. The facilitator, who is really an outsider, provides insight to keep the group on task, and any direct participation is with the consent of the manager.
The core team consists of the specialists who have been brought into the group because of their skills and knowledge. A generic group might have representation from customer service, manufacturing, information technology, finance and marketing. These members fulfill roles based on their expertise. To the extent that the group is self-managed, the organizational barriers between corporate divisions are broken, and each is a manager for his own knowledge area. Each team member must be proficient enough to represent his area of interest. Team members should not be selected because they had the most free time.
Behavioral style may be a factor in selecting team members, or the style may emerge as the team goes through the early phases of its development. Informal roles are not assigned. People with dominant personalities are inclined to focus on the project goal and must be held in check by the manager. Task-oriented members are the perfectionists who prefer to complete tasks themselves rather than delegate. A team member who holds back and observes the contribution of others could be assigned a formal role as group scribe to monitor the group's progress. Fluid at first, the informal roles become part of the structure and if they are accepted, they will help the group fulfill its purpose.