How to Deal with a Team that is Stuck?

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Stages of Team Development > Best Practices > How to Deal with a Team that is Stuck?

How to Deal with a Team that is Stuck?
Dan Corbett, Management Consultant, Canada, Member
I am interested in understanding how to move a project team forward from what I call being "stuck" - not sure about the way forward to becoming "unstuck" - getting clarity on the way ahead. Any suggestions as to team activities or process to break the inertia?

Suggestions for a Team that's Stuck
David B. Guerrero, Student (MBA), United States, Member
When a project team becomes "stuck" or stagnant, somewhere along the way, the team lost their focus. To get them back on track:
- Re-introduce the original goal of the project. Have the team put the goal on a large piece of construction paper or poster board and hang it up in the room where the team routinely meets. This will serve as a constant reminder of their purpose. This would be a great time to discuss the team's progress and possible alter the original goal.
- Maybe the goal changed somehow through the groups previous work; check on that.
- Lastly, "have the team select a co-project leader". If you're the project manager of the team, you may be involved with more than one project. It may be a good idea to put someone in charge to keep the team focused in the event you are absent. This would be a great opportunity to mentor a top producing employee to an increasingly responsible position. Hope this helped. Good luck.

Make Subgoals Which are Attainable in Short Run
Jagdish B Acharya, Consultant, India, Premium Member
Very general and desirable goals may not have measurable and attainable parts in them. With no progress seen, teams may get "stuck". If this is the reason then look at subgoals and language of goals and transform them while adding some measurements in them.
Six Hats Thinking of de Bono may also help in some cases.
When agencies outside the team are seen as the source of stagnation, teams may get stuck. Either get them in the team or change the goals or involve higher ups to restore momentum.

Getting Out of the Quicksand
Curtis Richardson, Business Consultant, United States, Member
1. Bring the sponsor in with the team and have the sponsor reiterate the objectives and importance of the project. Focus on the value their operations team or the organization gets at the end of the project.
2. Surface and resolve all conflicts (in a healthy way) within the team. That will pave the way for to ask the team what is limiting the them from being productive without attacking each other.
3. Work with the team to identify all issues and risks. Evaluate the issues and risks with the team and assign them to team members.
4. Get operations on board. Have the sponsor work with the resource managers to understand the priority of the project and ensure their staff (your team members) are completing team assignments. If possible, get project performance placed on their performance expectations.
5. Review the project charter. Then, talk to the sponsor about canceling the project or renegotiating the objectives, funding, and team members.

Paradox as a Medicine for Teams that are Stuck
Zondervan, Management Consultant, Netherlands, Member
Don't underestimate the power of paradox.
Having dealt with a number of stuck or dysfunctional teams myself I turn myself into a paradox for them. This helps break behavioural patterns and gets the team moving.
The paradox I present is a combination of straightforward pressure: look guys we just need to show progress now, also played this on individual level.
Existential: the only reason we are getting paid is because we can show results.
And coaching: if you encounter any problem at all, you can reach me.
So it is to be supportive and directive at the same time.
The other thing I have in my favour is that as I work with Scrum teams (Editor: ~an agile multidisciplinairy software development method) I have a daily status with the whole team on each team member's progress and activity for the day. Tasks are taken up by individuals and are plainly visible on the wall.
Then as we move along progress (on these tasks) becomes visible as well, The team gets visibly "unstuck" and starts to enjoy the sense of achievement.

Scrum Transition
Victor Simson, Project Manager, United States, Member
I would suggest you to arrange a proper training session on Scrum/Agile. This will help to boost the interest level of the people. From my experience, SCRUMstudy can be considered for the training. Moving to agile should help also if that suits your project's nature.

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