How to Manage Projects when Teams Compete

Competition is good. It brings out the best in a team, helps to motive them, keeps everyone on their game. But what if you’re managing a project with multiple teams who are in competition with one another?

Many companies have team incentives meant to foster productivity and team building. But that can often get in the way of getting work done, when you need to manage across those teams, and they’re at war! Sometimes, there are office politics at play, and teams just have a natural hostility to one another.

As a manager, it’s part of your job description to get things done, but no one ever said you would have to be a peacemaker. You have your priorities/incentives, too. And one of them is getting the project delivered on time. So, when competition might hinder progress, here are three ways to keep teams productive for the benefit of your project:

Hold Peace Negotiations

The first thing to do is hold peace negotiations with the various groups and develop ground rules and peace treaties for the benefit of this project. This is also a good opportunity to let all teams know they’re being heard.

One of the goals of these negotiations will be to define a safe zone of productivity where your project will be able to continue unabated. It’s crucial that you have them working together in one shared space to get the work done as a team. Create discussion channels in your project management tools for each team and for the overall project team, and use the global discussion channel for setting up and communicating about this peace process.

online PM tools help teams communicate and stay productive

Now you can bring both teams together and communicate clearly in one common platform, which is vital for team members working remotely. Host a discussion chat about the peace process during a live meeting, so everyone can participate. Now, for this process, you’re not leading as much as you are facilitating. Let the team create the ground rules themselves. Remember, communication is the foundation of leadership. This is how you create a cooperative environment. By allowing them to find the ways they can work together and not in conflict, you have doubled your productivity and built one team made of many teams.

Once you have these peace treaties, store them online in the project management software, so everyone can access it. Remember that you can use project tools for more than just task or project management; you can use software to communicate about the peace process and to promote project unity during the entire project.

Delegate Ambassadors

A group of people in a team needs a spokesperson. There has to be a point person to lead that group, or at least act as the liaison. If everyone has an equal voice, then there’s going to be confusion.

This doesn’t mean that team members are silenced in any way. They need to share their concerns and comments together, but only one person must be tasked with the job of disseminating that information.

Therefore, have each team nominate their ambassador who will be the one to communicate regularly with you on any issues that may arise within their teams. This is the most efficient and productive way to have needs met and not get communications muddled.

Set Your Own Incentives for the Project

Team members are people, and people love stuff. They like getting rewarded. They want to be recognized for the good work they do. This can go a long way to relieving any conflicts that often come about when two teams are in competition.

But it can be hard to compete with bonuses in the form of cold hard cash. That doesn’t mean two competing teams can’t collectively be striving for a group incentive, too. If you offer nothing, then motivation might waiver.

Therefore, how can you reward them? It’s important that you try to create a clear reward for all teams. It can be something like a retreat or a day of paintball, where they can truly don the battle gear once the project is done. That can be a great way to relieve the stress built up over the lifecycle of a project.

Another thing you can do is to create milestones of achievements within the project plan, so everyone can see these goals and work collaboratively to achieve them. This both sharpens the competitive spirit, while dulling the conflicts that can ensue in such an environment. With clearly set goals structured into the plan, team members will focus on the work and not the other team.

Working on a project is inherently stressful. There are limited resources, high expectation and a deadline always looming. It’s a perfect combination to create tension and the byproduct of that is going to be felt within the teams you’ve assembled to do the job. That can not only hurt morale, it can jeopardize the project.

However, good leadership and the right project management software tools can help alleviate that pressure. More than that, it can enhance a working climate that encourages competition in a healthy, effective and productive way. is a collaborative project management software tool that teams can use to better communicate and track their efforts throughout the project. They can update status in real-time and share information among themselves or with other teams. has consistently been ranked #1 in Project Management Software by Gartner’s GetApp as best in project management. Start your free 30-day trial today.

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