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Updated by Mark Phillipy on Feb 23, 2015
Headline for Ways a Good Project Team is like a Good Marriage
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Ways a Good Project Team is like a Good Marriage

On February 5, 2015, my wife and I celebrated 30 years of marriage. As I reflect on my marriage with my beautiful bride, it occurs to me that like a marriage, a project team requires work and ongoing care. I have created a list which includes ways a good project team is like a good marriage. Please help rank them in order of importance for a project team and feel free to add some of your own.

You can also listen to The Sensible Project Manager Podcast.


Unified Goals

To keep a marriage strong, both husband and wife must have goals that are congruent. This doesn't mean that they will always agree with each other, rather they will shape their individual goals into unified goals. Their goals must be aligned.

Likewise project teams must be united in their goals. If properly initiated, a project will have a Project Charter or similar document which will include the vision of the project and goals which align with that vision. When the project team understands the projects vision and goals, they can rally around those goals and be unified in their delivery of the project. The importance of a unified vision and goals are highlighted by this statement.

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Good Communications

In a good marriage communication is king & queen. Our family consists of eight children and two parents. When we fail to communicate with each other, things become chaotic and the Phillipy kingdom does not run well. It doesn't take long before the subjects (children) begin to rule the kingdom. It is critical for spouses to really listen to each other to understand what is being communicated.

It is just as critical for a project team to learn to communicate well with each other and to the stakeholders of their project. When collaboration between team members occurs, the project runs better and deliverables are met. Project Managers should work to establish a project environment which fosters open communication and a high level of collaboration. The following quote comes to mind.

When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective. ~ Stephen R. Covey


Patience & Understanding

Even in good marriages there are bound to be disagreements and conflicts. Because misunderstandings between two people are imminent, both husband and wife need to be patient with each other.

Project teams will also experience conflict. Each team member should always be aware of the other members of the team and sincerely work to understand their point of view. This quote is a little flippant, however very appropriate.

...treat people with understanding when you can, and fake it when you can't until you do understand. ~ Kim Harrison

Patience is also an important quality a team member should strive for. We are all at different levels of skill, experience, and abilities. Be patient with each other as the team works to deliver the project. This quality especially needs to kick in when things don't quite go right. This quote highlights this virtue.

The secret code of success is patience, a virtue that cannot be replaced. It takes time to build great dreams. ~ Bernard Kelvin Clive



I am convinced that there isn't a more important team on earth than the team of husband and wife. A good marriage requires strong teamwork between spouses. As a couple learns to work together, they will grow together.

Similarly, project teams need to be able to work together to meet the deliverables of the project. Great teams have learned that the team is greater than the summation of the individual parts. Each person on the team should understand their roles and responsibilities and work to support the team to the best of their ability and help others in need. This statement highlights the importance of teamwork.

The ability of a group of people to do remarkable things hinges on how well those people pull together as a team. ~ Simon Sinek


Leverage Each Other's Strengths

Over the past 30 years I have learned that my wife has some great strengths that help counterbalance my weaknesses. For instance, there is nothing like a mothers intuition. In a good marriage the couple will identify their strengths and weaknesses and successfully leverage each other's strengths and buoy up each other's weaknesses.

Great teams learn to work together to bring out the strengths of each other. Each project member has their own set of unique skills. As those skills become apparent, the team will either consciously or unconsciously begin leveraging each other's strengths. The importance of focusing on each other's strengths is highlighted in this quote.

Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses. ~ Marilyn vos Savant


Kindness & Respect

Two important virtues to have in a marriage is kindness and respect. I have found that as we are kind to each other and treat each other with total respect, love increases. I often hear my mother's words ringing in my ears "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." Those words have played an important part in my "Great Marriage".

Project teams can learn from that example. When team members are kind to each other and treat each other respectfully, harmony is inevitable. I would recommend team members practice "random acts of kindness". If you are not aware of what that means, I highly suggest you watch a fantastic movie called "Pay it Forward" which came out in the year 2000.

Don't ever underestimate the importance of treating others with respect and kindness. ~ Alison Levine


Serve Each Other

In a good marriage selfishness will be diminished if each partner wakes up in the morning and thinks, how can I serve my spouse today. I can't say I do this every day, but I do know that when I do and act upon it, both my wife and I are much more likely to have a great day.

When project team members are willing to help their teammates, not only are things more pleasant, but I believe more work is accomplished. I especially believe that when the project manager practices servant leadership, the whole team becomes more efficient. This is exemplified in the statement.

The heart of the leader is manifested through service to others. ~ Artika Tyner