While a successful project manager must be a good leader, other members of the project team must also learn to work together, whether they are assembled from different divisions of the same organization or even from different organizations. Some problems of interaction may arise initially when the team members are unfamiliar with their own roles in the project team, particularly for a large and complex project. These problems must be resolved quickly in order to develop an effective, functioning team.
Many of the major issues in construction projects require effective interventions by individuals, groups and organizations. The fundamental challenge is to enhance communication among individuals, groups and organizations so that obstacles in the way of improving interpersonal relations may be removed. Some behavior science concepts are helpful in overcoming communication difficulties that block cooperation and coordination. In very large projects, professional behavior scientists may be necessary in diagnosing the problems and advising the personnel working on the project. The power of the organization should be used judiciously in resolving conflicts.
The major symptoms of interpersonal behavior problems can be detected by experienced observers, and they are often the sources of serious communication difficulties among participants in a project. For example, members of a project team may avoid each other and withdraw from active interactions about differences that need to be dealt with. They may attempt to criticize and blame other individuals or groups when things go wrong. They may resent suggestions for improvement, and become defensive to minimize culpability rather than take the initiative to maximize achievements. All these actions are detrimental to the project organization.
While these symptoms can occur to individuals at any organization, they are compounded if the project team consists of individuals who are put together from different organizations. Invariably, different organizations have different cultures or modes of operation. Individuals from different groups may not have a common loyalty and may prefer to expand their energy in the directions most advantageous to themselves instead of the project team. Therefore, no one should take it for granted that a project team will work together harmoniously just because its members are placed physically together in one location. On the contrary, it must be assumed that good communication can be achieved only through the deliberate effort of the top management of each organization contributing to the joint venture.
Chris Hendrickson is the Duquesne Light Company Professor of Engineering and Co-Director of the Green Design Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. His research, teaching and consulting are in the general area of engineering planning and management, including design for the environment, project management, transportation systems, finance and computer applications. Prof. Hendrickson is a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineering, an Emeritus Member of the Transportation Research Board and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Hendrickson is also the recipient of many professional awards.