Document Detail

Title: RR134-11 - Identifying Success Factors for High Performance Work Teams
Publication Date: 9/1/1998
Product Type: Research Report
Status: Reference
Pages: 144
Dukerich, Ammeter, Univ. of Texas at Austin
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The purpose of this research was to determine methods for establishing high performance project teams that achieve breakthrough project performance, focusing on cost and cycle time reduction. The objectives of this research were to:

  • Identify common characteristics of high performance project teams in the construction and related industries.
  • Define what connotes “high performance” for a project team in the construction industry.
  • Identify tangible and measurable benefits of high performance project teams.
  • Develop metrics to predict and measure high performance project team success.
  • Develop tools and methods for the establishment of high performance project teams in the construction industry.

Using interview sessions with members of eight high performance project teams we found a number of characteristics high performance teams had in common. These characteristics included critical project manager/leader behaviors, team members having “a sense of belonging to a team,” team members’ ability to lead the team when their expertise was required, a sense of ownership of the project, a sense of competition with other or previous projects, team colocation and/or physical isolation from other projects, use of team building (formal or informal), and high level sponsorship and high visibility. Based on the findings from the interviews a survey instrument was created and sent to project teams in CII companies.

“High performance” was defined by the CII project team members who responded to our survey as a 10% (or better) improvement over the cost target or a 10% (or better) improvement over the schedule target, where the targets have been “aggressively set.” It was evident from the findings that a trade-off between cost and schedule existed—of the 151 projects in our study, only one was “high performance” (10% improvement on target) on both cost and schedule. Thus the tangible benefits from having a high performance team appear to be improvements to cost or improvements to schedule.

Through statistical analyses of survey data from one hundred and fifty-one CII project teams, we found that the common characteristics of high performance project teams in the construction industry (as perceived by the respondents) were (1) leader behaviors (e.g., communicating project goals, setting high standards and expectations, supporting team decisions, etc.) and (2) member characteristics (e.g., commitment and dedication to the project, sense of ownership of the project, the right qualifications to meet the team’s needs, etc.). To a lesser extent, team building-type behaviors (e.g., participation in formal and informal team building, recognizing and celebrating success, etc.) were also associated with these teams. Objective improvements in actual project cost were associated with leader behaviors. Consistent with previous CII research, use of best practices was found to be associated with actual project cost and schedule performance.

Our research team is developing tools that would enable project team members to assess the leadership behaviors, member characteristics, and team building efforts either before (or as) the team is being put together or after the project is underway. The survey used in our study provides a template for the development of assessment surveys.

In our survey, as in any survey of this type, our data do not allow us to make causal statements (our analyses identify associations between variables and we infer probable cause). What remains is verification that these associations in fact operate the way we believe them to operate. Further study of these associations in controlled or experimental settings to separate out their effects is recommended.