Many of my readers living in cricket-playing countries would be aware that India recently won the inaugural World Twenty20 cricket title. The win was somewhat surprising because India fielded a young and inexperienced team – minus their established stars and with no coach. Further, many players on the team had had no prior experience of playing a Twenty20 international.
In retrospect, the absence of star players was a good thing for at least a couple of reasons:
- The team had to play as a team without relying on a few individuals. They did this well; several specialist players contributed to the team’s eventual success, as is borne out by the batting and bowling averages .
- The young, and relatively inexperienced, captain, Mahendra Dhoni, could make decisions unconstrained by the presence and opinions of so-called stars. Many analysts, including India’s ex-coach Greg Chappell agree that Dhoni’s leadership was one of the reasons for India’s success. One of the more striking aspects of Dhoni’s captaincy during the tournament was his ability to draw outstanding performances from fringe players .
The last point is the one that interests me here. Project teams are generally made up of individuals with a range of (professional) skills and (personal) attributes, brought together with the common goal of seeing the project through to completion. As is the case with groups in general, a small number of these individuals – those with strong personalities – tend to dominate decision-making forums such as team meetings. It is up to the project manager to control these alpha male (or female) types, and draw out the quieter folks who, presumably, are just as important to the success of the project (if they aren’t, why are they on the team at all?).
Letting big egos interfere with calm and considered decision making is a recipe for failure – both on the cricket field and in project work. Dhoni was lucky not to have to deal with star sized egos in the tournament. A project manager will seldom be so fortunate.