“Are the team members all on the same page about the project’s goals? Do they all understand how their work is going to be measured? What are they going to do if one team member doesn’t do his or her homework?
“Too often, what happens is that teams get right down to work, and then some sort of conflict arises. It gets ugly and personal very fast, because everyone has been blindsided and no one knows what to do. Here’s an example: You start working as a team. One person is behaving like a star — he wants special treatment. Well, did you all talk about that possibility before you launched into things?
“My advice for any new team: Don’t shortchange your startup. Take the time to understand what you’re going to do and how you’re going to deal with the possible bumps along the way. Trying to undo a conflict between two team members when no one is prepared to handle such a situation is at least three times harder than taking the time to set up some ground rules at the beginning of the process.”
Jeanie Duck’s work at The Boston Consulting Group mainly focuses on large-scale change. Her book, The Change Monster: The Human Forces That Fuel or Foil Corporate Transformation and Change, is forthcoming this spring from Random House.