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Working on a Team

An organization is usually divided into departments. Each department is responsible for a specific area of the organization's operation. The marketing department is responsible for making sure the company is well known and has a good reputation. They are also responsible for designing sales campaigns. The shipping and receiving department is responsible for maintaining inventory and taking care of shipping and receiving. There are many more departments between marketing and shipping and receiving, each with their own specific area of operation.

But sometimes something comes up that doesn't fit within the definition of any single department's operation. One example of this is the launch of a new product, which might involve the marketing department, the engineering department, manufacturing, and shipping and receiving. Another example might be a large customer order for a custom product. When these things come up, a special project team is assigned to handle the project.

The tasks involved in these types of projects cross department boundaries, so the members of the special team are usually selected at a meeting of department managers. Each department manager decides which people from their department they want to contribute to the team. A manager might pick an individual for the team because the team requires that persons special skills. A manager might pick an individual for the team because they want that person to pick up skills by working on the team.

The leader for the special project team may be an employee from one manager's department, as agreed upon by the other department managers, or one of the managers may lead the team. Sometimes the special project's team leader may be chosen by a company executive. Special projects have high visibility by company executives because things like launching a new product or filling a large special order have a big impact on company revenue.

A member of the team may be temporarily being excused from their normal job duties and assigned to work on the special project full time. It's more common for a team member to work on the team and, at the same time, maintain their normal job duties. This is where a problem can arise with an employee setting priorities.

A good project manager will use project management tools like a Gantt chart or a PERT chart. These tools allow the project manager to track the start and finish dates of tasks in the project. These tools also display the dependencies between tasks. In other words, one task falling behind schedule usually causes other tasks, and maybe the entire project, to fall behind schedule.

When you work on a special project team, you'll be expected to make a commitment to complete certain work by a specific date. You'll be at a meeting with the other team members when you'll be assigned, or you'll volunteer to to perform certain work by a specific date. You're making a commitment here, and if you don't come through, you'll be sitting with the team at a future meeting explaining why you didn't meet your commitment.

Because of task dependencies, your failure to meet your commitment will most likely affect the work of other team members. In other words, you'll be demonstrating in front of everyone that your incompetent. That's why it's very important for you to fully understand your assignment on the team and take responsibility to get work done on time.

If you want to be successful working on a team, it's important to understand exactly what you're supposed to do, what resources you'll have (including help from other team members, when you need to have it done, and the impact of not having it done on time.

It's common for an individual on a special project team to be expected to not only meet their team commitments, but also keep up with their normal job duties. Your boss knows that you're working on a special team and will give some slack on your normal job duties, but sometimes your normal job duties gain a higher priority than your assignment on the special project team.

This is the difficult part of working on a special project team. You can be torn between the priorities of your normal job duties and the priorities of your special project team assignments. You'll need to use good communication skills to negotiate a solution, and good time management skills to satisfy both priorities. Being able to do this is why employers place a high value on being able to work effectively on a team.

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