7 Tips on how to improve your project team culture with affinity groups

I just attended Colin Ellis’s keynote presentation, which provided wonderful advice on how to build the strongest project team. I took away several useful techniques, one of which was to positively change your team culture by having one team social event per month. I consider affinity groups to be a great social event and they can be an effective way to improve team culture and leverage the best thinking of my team. Here are 7 Tips on how to improve your team culture with affinity groups.

Culture has a huge impact on how people exposed to that culture behave. We have all heard that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Are you so action- and results-oriented that you no longer celebrate success or show (or feel) enthusiasm? Perhaps it is because your organization only cares how hard you work (and not how the results were produced or about the people that produced those results). Does your culture require that you leave work only after your boss does? Perhaps that is because your organization associates longer work hours with higher productivity.

Teams are more productive in a supportive culture. If you are still working towards that supportive culture, what can you do to affect a positive culture change?

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” One of the best ways to change your team culture is to be the change you want to see in your culture. Do you want a team environment based on trust? Then be trusting and trustworthy. Do you want the team to have strong relationships? Be a servant leader, lead by example, lead to encourage team discussion and to enhance (instead of degrade) your team members’ well-being. Do you want your team to share ideas and challenges and issues with you? Then be open and transparent.

A very tactical and pragmatic yet effective way to instill the right culture with your project portfolio team is to create an affinity group, which is a group formed around a shared interest or common goal. If you have ever been part of a fraternity or sorority, or a club focused on an activity like skiing or cycling, or regularly meet the same group of friends for dinner, then you have been part of an affinity group. The affinity group I am speaking of is organized around a role or skill; around project management and all of its forms, composed of a team that is focused on a common interest (such as delivering value and strategic alignment).

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