Evelyne Lefèvre Downs

Lecturer in Project Management and Coordinator International Affairs, IUT de Roanne – Université Jean Monnet

This project got me thinking a lot about the challenge of working in a team from places located all over Europe with different environments, different people, different views and expectations … nothing new for experts who are used to intercultural communication and yet, the way we are now compelled to work – that is online – is certainly adding another layer to the complexity.

I am currently working on an online module on teamwork for the project. I was wondering how I should start this module. As I started reflecting on my own experience of teamwork it struck me that the projects I have struggled the most with have been the project where the foundations I needed had not been laid. Objectives, tools, tasks had most of the time been beautifully organised and yet, the magic of teamwork did not happen. And that gave me the answer to the “How should I start this module?” The answer: with expectations.

What do we all expect from working together? What do we expect from ourselves, the others, and us as a group?

As a project coordinator I am a firm believer in team communication. This is my expectation. And sometimes, as task managers from the Western world, I feel we sacrifice the time dedicated to building relations to the benefit of performance and task management. This works well when we are involved in short-term projects. But from my experience, the more complex the project, the more diverse the team, the more distance there is between the members, the longer the project will run, the more we should invest our energy first in relationships and what we call teambuilding.

Even if it may feel like a waste of time when there is so much to do and organise, my belief is that this investment in the human part of the project is what will enable a team to flourish. Voicing these expectations and sharing them could be one of the first stepping-stones for an aspiring team.