image by NHLFlyers, official twitter handle of the philadelphia flyers

when your favorite sports team finds issues to work on, they spend more time on it in practice.

powerplay numbers down? you can bet that your favorite hockey team is going to spend more time in the umbrella during practice.

not winning the battles along the boards? eat your wheatiesand have yourself a powerbar before you hit the ice, because we’re doing nothing but 2-on-2’s for a solid 15 minutes down in the corners.

sloppy line changes in the second period? get ready to play a lot of dump and chase and listen for your line to be called.

i think we’ve got the individual training down pretty well in industry. we have one day training events to introduce people to new concepts. we have 2 and 3 day seminars to teach solid fundamentals of what makes a good consultant. we have week long “boot camps” for certification training and exams. but what about the rest of your team?

granted, there’s no way you can take an entire 30-40 person project team and send them all to the same PMP boot camp for an entire week. but why don’t we practice as a team on other things, like email communication? or developing presentations? or leading effective meetings?i think you’ll hear people expressing this need often enough (“hey guys, we really need to be doing a better job of sharing information.”), but we don’t ever seem to follow up on that? how come?

here are three things that should help you practice as a team:

  1. set a benchmark and a goal.
you need to know what your current ability level is first. it's going to be hard to quantify certain things — like effective communication — but try as best as you can to keep from giving yourself an arbitrary 'poor, average, good, awesome' rating scale. once you know where you're at, set a goal for where you want to be. "hey gang, our email strings are on average 6-8 messages long. let's start using wikis and cut this number down to 3-4 messages by next month."   2. _focus on the bright spots._

you can't all be terrible at everything.. or maybe you are. either way, someone somewhere has to be doing things the right way, or at least closer to the way you'd like to be doing things. focus on what these people are doing and learn from them. "the client has always been impressed with julie's presentations. let's try to be more like julie."   3. _forgive, forgive, and then forgive again._

people are going to make mistakes, but you should never hold this against them. how many times do you see a running back in football fumble only to have his head coach call a running play the very next series out on the field to build his confidence? forgive mistakes, use them as learning experiences, and then give that person another opportunity. "hey, trish, you were pretty shaky in speaking with the client today; you're doing alright on your own, but you're not there yet. we have another meeting coming up on tuesday, and i'm going to need you to be on your A-game. before the presentation, spend at least one more hour reviewing the materials and practicing than you did last time."

use these three principles to shape your project team’s practice playbook. rather than individuals returning from training courses to a project team that isn’t fertile enough for their newly acquired abilities to incubate, you’ll see improvements across the board if your whole team focuses on that same thing. change always works best when done in groups.

it doesn’t make sense to practice your 5-on-4 powerplay one player at a time — so why do it with your project teams?