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What’s the difference between an ordinary team and a high‑performing one?
Why do some teams do decent work while other teams do great work?

These are important questions.
But they're tricky to answer.

Because teams are wonderfully complicated, dynamic things.*

*filled with wonderful, complicated, dynamic people

It's tempting to say it all boils down to the talent in the team or the tools you're using. And you know what? There's some truth to that. But there's actually a far simpler answer.
It's about the way that work is managed.

See, most teams manage projects just to finish them.
High performance teams manage projects to make a difference to the business.

They don't communicate just to cover their asses. They communicate to solve problems. They don’t collaborate to find compromises. They collaborate to become greater than the sum of their parts. They don’t get bogged down by tasks and timings. They stay laser-focused on the goals of their projects. On the results that matter to their business. On the bigger picture. This is big picture project management.

It isn’t about your certifications.
It isn’t about the methodology or software you use.
It isn't even about having "project manager" in your job title.

It’s the mindset that separates ordinary teams from great ones.

And we believe it comes down to six key principles.

01

The process exists to deliver an outcome

High-performance teams don't just follow a series of steps for the sake of it. They do it to get results.

To effectively manage a project, you don't just need to be able to zoom in to the details of every task.

You also need to be able to zoom out to view performance across your projects.

You may be surprised by what you find. Cloud computing company Strencom found they were wasting 35 hours a week (yeah, a week) on inefficient project management.

 

And by fixing that problem, they delivered better work, faster. Now their NPS score is over double the industry standard. That's the bigger picture outcome.

02

It takes trust to get the most from your team

High-performing teams make working (and tracking that work) a pleasure. You can trust that everyone is bringing their A-game to every game.

And when it comes to literally saving lives like one medical company we work with (over 15,000 employees in over 40 countries and lives on the line), bringing your A-game is kind of a big deal.

 

That's a company that can't be micro-managed. Those people need to be empowered to act responsibly and support their team. They need project management that trusts them, and gets out of their way.

03

Transparency is the key to accountability

Accountability isn't about taking screenshots to prove people are working (yes that's a thing, no we won't build it). Accountability is about owning your piece of the bigger picture.

It's about giving ownership to the people working on the project, and letting everyone know what each person owns. So they know where their work layers up with their colleagues'.

People work better when they know how all the pieces of the project stack together. And if you’re spending as much time out of the office as in it (like the good people at social media and content marketing strategy company Convince & Convert), this transparency is critical to delivering on a client’s needs.

 

04

Communication is problem‑solving

When everyone knows what everyone else is working on, amazing things happen. Suddenly there’s no issue with bottlenecks, there’s no work "tossed over the wall", there’s no "I didn’t know who to talk to" when a problem is spotted at the last minute.

The most effective teams work hard to clearly communicate what the project is all about — and how the different parts of the team fit with each other. That way, people aren’t just talking for the sake of talking. They’re talking to solve problems based on common goals.

And that doesn’t just apply to internal teams. We work with teams like Pavilion Health who include clients and subcontractors in projects too (all with different privacy levels of course). So no more update emails, no more miscommunications, no more "I thought you told them".

 

05

Everyone owns the project

If people just think they own the cog, they don't look after the machine. The most effective teams are made up of people who can see the bigger picture, and understand that the project belongs to everyone.

So it doesn't matter who has what job title or who's used to working with a certain methodology, everyone gets the information and help they need to do their job well.

And if they see something that needs doing, and they know how to do it, they feel entitled to act on their impulse. Because sometimes great project management is just about having an empowered team.

For Pinnacle Brands (a division of global fine-wine and spirit importer Palm Bay International), this mentality has allowed them to spread responsibility across departments. Which means they can better assist an ever-expanding list of clients (while employing just one Project Manager).

 

06

You don't need project management software

The best project managers (capital P and M or not) could run a construction project with nothing but post-it notes.

So if you’re going to use some software, its job should be to get out of your way and free your team’s talent to focus on what matters.

It shouldn’t force you into working in some specific methodology or framework. You manage the project. It’s just here to help.

What you really need is something more than project management software. You need teamwork (definitely lowercase t, but probably capital T as well).

We haven't written these principles to start a revolution. We've written them because, at some point in time, project management became about the details of tasks and timings instead of the stuff that really matters.

But your job isn't just to make your project management software work.
It's to make your team work, beautifully.