The success of project teams is dependent on a number of factors including, but not limited to, having: an effective, competent and scalable leadership; a balanced mix of available experience, expertise and skills; communication effectiveness; Knowledge Bandwidth; capacity to process, share, accumulate and extend knowledge; and a sense of commitment and motivation to achieve project goals.
Knowledge Bandwidth has not been used as a term in the context of project team’s capabilities to deliver on project objectives. Yet in the present era of ubiquitous online information, the maintenance of a desired level of team’s Knowledge Bandwidth seems to be a defining measure for determining a project team’s success. To advance an understanding of what project team Knowledge Bandwidth means, we define it as “the combined, accumulated capital of knowledge available at a given time to a project team, which knowledge the team can immediately put to use for the purpose of discharging its duties in the most effective and productive manner.” These duties include not only performing specified tasks; but being creative, problem solving, informed and sound decision-making and dealing with uncertainties.
Knowledge Bandwidth is not a static phenomenon, but changes in the light of the dynamics of the project team environment. Knowledge can get updated, become outdated / obsolete / extinct, and replaced with completely new knowledge, thus changing the bandwidth available at a point in time. Among the events that can cause such changes are: 1) introduction of new policies and procedures; 2) entry or exit of project team members; 3) organisational changes such as in reporting structures; 4) rise or fall in the willingness of team members to share information; 5) development of internal ‘team politics’; 6) changes in the relationship with the world outside the team or occurrence of a disconnect with external project eco-system; 7) Switch from a Vertical to Flat organizational structure; and 8) introduction of new technology. While several impediments / limitations, both from within and outside the project team eco-system, can affect Knowledge Bandwidth of project teams, yet a project team’s Knowledge Bandwidth can be augmented by focusing on some key elements. These elements, termed here as Seven C’s of Knowledge Bandwidth are described in detail below.
Knowledge Bandwidth of a project team is critically dependent on the collaborative nature of team members. Sharing of knowledge can effectively happen if team members have the tendency to collaborate and that will augment the Knowledge bandwidth. Where team members don’t trust each other, knowledge will be held or remain isolated in individual pockets of knowledge sources negatively impacting the Knowledge Bandwidth of project team. Collaboration means sharing of knowledge for performance of task including knowledge sharing for start, execution and completion of tasks. It also means passing on correct, complete and quality information in a timely manner to other parties within the project team where there are task dependencies. It also means sharing new knowledge as it filters through the project team’s ecosystem and if that happens it will help in augmenting the Knowledge Bandwidth of team.
Communication among project team members could happen in a variety of forms. It could happen face-to-face, in written form, live online, online text / written communication, and in the shape of non-verbal cues and signs induced communication. Often team members use a variety of channels to communicate. This multi-channel communication approach is very important in augmenting the Knowledge bandwidth of a project team. A blockage in any channel could lead to a negative impact on Knowledge Bandwidth. Facilitating communication in various means and forms and making the communication channels available at all time during project duration is vital to maintenance and augmentation of Knowledge Bandwidth of project teams.
Co-creation among the project team members is critical to augmentation of Knowledge Bandwidth. The project teams are often comprised of multiple stakeholders who bring in multitude of expertise, skills, experience, knowledge, competencies and traits to project eco-system. These characteristics if leveraged effectively could augment the Knowledge Bandwidth of the team and facilitate project delivery. Co-Creation could take many forms within a project team. Such as, generation of new ideas, solutions to ongoing and expected problems, development of new processes and policies, new ways of executing tasks and processes, new ways of communication, use of technologies to find workarounds to ongoing or expected problems, and skills development. Happening of any or more than one such events of co-creation then result in augmentation of Knowledge Bandwidth of project team and lack thereof negatively impact the overall Knowledge Bandwidth.
Curiosity is another important element to drive augmentation of Knowledge Bandwidth. Curiosity can lead to finding solutions and building new knowledge. Curiosity, however, is not necessarily an outcome of a deliberate or an intended effort within a team. It could often happen due to individual interests or aptitude of one or few team members. Team members with a curious aptitude could find new knowledge or give new meaning to existing knowledge which ultimately result in augmentation of Knowledge bandwidth. Not having team members that have a curious aptitude do not necessarily impact the Knowledge Bandwidth capabilities of a project team though.
Team climate is a key driver and enabler for augmentation of project team’s Knowledge Bandwidth. A team climate that is founded on trust, mutual respect, commitment, and shared beliefs will enable knowledge exchange and augmentation of Knowledge bandwidth. When project team climate is stressful, lacks leadership, task-focused, low on energy and enthusiasm and breeds misscommunication will be determinantal to Knowledge Bandwidth.
Continuance of leadership, team members, policies, systems, and environment is another critical element to augmentation of project team’s Knowledge Bandwidth. When leaders and team members exit / enter project team eco-system frequently, it could result in knowledge depletion and knowledge imbalance. Such a scenario will result in lack of consistency and could adversely affect knowledge sharing, development and augmentation. Similarly, constant changes into policies, procedures, technologies, systems and ways of doing things will induce a sense of instability within the project team’s working eco-system leading to diminishing effect on Knowledge Bandwidth.
Chemistry among project team members is also vital to maintenance and augmentation of Knowledge Bandwidth. Similarities in traits, attitude, interests, behaviours is expected to lead to common and shared environment and cohesion among the members. In a cohesive project team environment, there will be alignment of thoughts and views, which will enable sharing of knowledge and further development of ideas ultimately contributing to augmentation of project team Knowledge Bandwidth.
Concluding thoughts: In today’s internet and social media driven economies, knowledge is increasingly the most vital commodity. Having a right level of Knowledge Bandwidth which is both stable and expandable can make a significant impact on the project delivery capabilities of project teams. Developing and deploying enablers that help augment Knowledge bandwidth of project team should therefore be a strategy for next millennium project organisations.