What Can a Project Manager Do to Avoid Some Pitfalls of a Highly Cohesive Project Team?

by Jun 6, 2022Blog, Project Management, Solutions

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The benefits of cohesive project teams are well documented. Those teams are more productive, innovative, and aligned to meet project objectives. However, highly cohesive teams also have their own set of challenges. They tend to feel like a family and are more likely to suffer from the “pied piper effect.’ Each member has their own ideas, so the group’s goals and plans quickly start to look the same. Perhaps most importantly, highly cohesive teams struggle to make difficult decisions since everyone has their ideas. They also tend to be more likely to engage in dysfunctional behavior, such as sabotaging one another.

What Can a Project Manager Do to Avoid Some Pitfalls of a Highly Cohesive Project Team?

The benefits of cohesive project teams are well documented. Those teams are more productive, innovative, and aligned to meet project objectives. However, highly cohesive teams also have their own set of challenges. They tend to feel like a family and are more likely to suffer from the “pied piper effect.’ Each member has their own ideas, so the group’s goals and plans quickly start to look the same. Perhaps most importantly, highly cohesive teams struggle to make difficult decisions since everyone has their ideas. They also tend to be more likely to engage in dysfunctional behavior, such as sabotaging one another.

That said, cohesive project teams have a lot going for them too. They can have a positive impact on the productivity of a team. They may also be more productive when working on small, incremental tasks. However, most of these benefits come from working with smaller, more focused teams that can work more effectively together. That being said, you still have to manage the risks of a highly cohesive team. Here are tips to avoid the pitfalls of highly cohesive project teams.

Board the Team

  • Board the Team: The Project Manager must ensure that team members are all on board for the project, fully informed about it, are aware of what is expected of them, and know who is responsible for what.
  • Shock the Team: Once everyone’s on the same page, you can shock them with a new idea or a challenge to their way of thinking. Throw out a wild idea so that they better understand your point of view. You might want to throw in some extra questions or tasks to keep them baffled and engaged.
  • Look Out for Problems: If there are any lingering problems, you should address them early enough in the process to avoid exacerbating any issues down the line.

Come Together

Creating a sense of camaraderie is essential in any team environment, and it’s especially paramount on a project team.

Whether you meet in person or virtually, every opportunity to interact with your colleagues represents a chance for your teammates to get to know each other on a more personal level. Make the most of these by encouraging them to share stories about themselves and their work experience. The more cohesive your group is, the easier it will be for them to interact with one another throughout the life of a project.

Teambuilding activities are another great way for people who work remotely or only see each other once in a while to get comfortable working together—and they’re not just for building trust falls anymore! Fun exercises such as escape rooms or volunteering reinforce key values like collaboration, cooperation, and communication among participants while providing an outlet for interaction outside of typical office environments.

If you can’t bring everyone together in person (or even virtually) before starting the project, creating opportunities for social interaction with things like shared calendars and social media groups can go a long way toward helping your team members bond—and help keep them engaged after hours, too!


An excellent project manager is a good communicator. As the person leading your project, you must ensure that everyone involved is on the same page. Communicate with your team about their progress and the status of the overall project. It’s a good practice to hold weekly meetings where you can check in with each of your team members and have them report on their work since the previous meeting.

You also need to set expectations for how much work needs to be done each week so that no one ends up overwhelmed or underutilized. If somebody doesn’t seem to be able to keep up, try talking to them directly to find out what’s going on—if they’re feeling lost or unmotivated, it’s best not to let it linger until it affects their contribution adversely. If there are any issues regarding communication—say if someone on your team is coming off as too serious and unfriendly—you should speak with them about it privately and see if you can make things better for everyone moving forward.

Keeping these tips in mind will help keep your project running smoothly, but remember that not all teams are created equal! Regardless of how well-prepped you think someone might be for working alongside certain people in particular roles (such as coding), there will always be challenges working together towards common goals; this is just part of being human, after all!

Offer Opportunities for Responsibilities

Having your whole team on the same page is a huge plus for any project, but it also means fewer people will be willing to voice differing opinions for fear of ostracism. As a manager, you should make an effort to provide opportunities for team members to take on leadership responsibilities. Whether coordinating meetings or organizing events, giving someone ownership over a role helps keep everyone involved and keeps the project running smoothly. Effective managers can distribute leadership roles evenly across the group and empower their employees with enough authority to get things done.

Establish Open Office Hours

A great way to ensure that team members don’t hold back questions or concerns from you is to establish open office hours. These are special times during the week when your employees can “drop by” for a conversation about anything, whether work-related or not.

The key here is to ensure your team knows when your open office hours are and how long these will last. For example, let’s say you have three hours every Friday afternoon set aside for open office hours; this means that anyone on the team can come to talk with you about anything, no appointment necessary. By scheduling these special sessions regularly, everyone will know when they’re coming up and who they need to talk to if they want to speak privately. Just as important as knowing who’s available: knowing who is not available! Your employees will also know that no other meetings should be scheduled during those three hours on Fridays, and there won’t be any interruptions. So they’ll be able to go straight into whatever discussion they may need without wasting time waiting around the office.

Open office hours will help project managers avoid pitfalls because it allows them to spend more time interacting with their teams individually while still being productive throughout their day–plus, there’s no risk of missing out on essential updates from team members!

Create an Open Communication Channel for Staff

Remember, cohesion is a good thing! The problem occurs when cohesion becomes so tight that it stifles conflict and discussion. One way to help the project team members feel more comfortable communicating with you is to set up an informal communication channel where they can easily connect with you regularly.

In my experience, this type of communication works best when it’s something like a chat channel, rather than having frequent phone calls or meetings. Chat channels are less formal and require less time commitment than phone calls or meetings, so people are more likely to use them. Instead of having everyone wait for an email from the PM to share important updates or ask questions, the project team can use a chat channel to address their concerns quickly and get them out of the way–and be done with it! They’ll also see other project team members discussing things there, which will make them feel more comfortable doing the same thing themselves without feeling vulnerable or worried about how others will react.

This type of open communication also makes it easy for people who may not work together frequently but still have something important to contribute (like a developer working on one part of your project which needs some information from another developer working on another part). It helps keep lines of communications open across departments while also preventing managers from feeling overwhelmed by all these different conversations going on at once–chat channels allow conversations to happen simultaneously instead of sequentially as email does.

Always Be Available

  • Always be available. At the core of any project team is the project manager, and it’s your job to continuously interact with your team members to coach them through their tasks, help provide solutions for problems that arise, and make the process as smooth as possible for everyone involved. This allows you to understand better how each member contributes to the whole. Still, it also allows you to quickly pick up on any developing problems that may have otherwise gone unnoticed until they’ve grown into major deal-breakers.
  • Create a space where team members feel comfortable coming to you with questions or concerns. It’s essential that everyone on your team feels like they can approach you with their thoughts, ideas, or concerns, which is why creating an environment where those lines of communication are always open is crucial. By encouraging your team members to come forward with issues—even if they seem small—you’ll be able to work out solutions before they become bigger ones.

Create a Celebration of Successes

As a project manager, you should create a Celebration of Successes (COS). It’s simply a way to reward your team for their hard work. I know what you’re thinking:

You have no budget. You can do it yourself or ask someone to volunteer. Some ideas include:

  • Bring in some unhealthy snacks for the team.
  • Take the team out for lunch at an off-site location.
  • Buy them each a small gift card ($10 – $15) to somewhere like Starbucks or Target and give it to them with a personal thank you note that recognizes something specific they did well on the team, such as creating excellent documentation for handoff to another department or stepping up and taking on additional tasks when needed.

Remember, this doesn’t need to be an expensive endeavor—but it does need to be done fairly across all team members.

Never Punish the Team for Failure

  1. Never single out individuals
  2. Never use threats
  3. Never try to use fear to motivate or gain control over your team
  4. Never try to get revenge by manipulating the performance review process
  5. Don’t talk to each team member separately in an attempt to find out who’s responsible for a project failure
  6. Don’t try to discipline the entire group or individual members of it (see #1)

Hold Monthly Refresher Training Sessions on Project Management Topics

There are many ways to hold a monthly training session, but it’s best to keep them brief and to the point. Ensure that your team is receptive. Make sure you present the training in a relaxed, non-threatening environment. It’s also best if the atmosphere is comfortable and familiar so that people feel relaxed and more likely to participate. When planning your training topic or topics for the month, keep them easy to understand and interactive. Be sure they are relevant and timely as well.

Bring in New Projects

One of the best ways to ensure that your team members stay engaged is to assign them to various projects that require different types of work. This will help maintain momentum and interest, but it can also offer an opportunity for team members to step outside their comfort zone and develop new skills while tackling fresh challenges. This can be especially beneficial if you have a team member known for being especially high-performing in a specific area (such as developing visually appealing designs) but may not be as vital in other areas (such as project management). That way, people are challenged and given a chance to become more well-rounded contributors. It’s important, however, to make sure that no one person (or group of people) is consistently assigned projects that ask them to stretch themselves too thinly; this could lead to fatigue rather than growth.


If you follow the proper steps as a project manager, your highly cohesive team can succeed and not succumb to any of the pitfalls. Here are some things you can do:

  • Don’t let the team become complacent in their work. If your team is working smoothly together, don’t assume everything is fine and let them continue working at their current level of performance. Make sure you keep challenging them to push themselves to the next level.
  • Don’t let the team become too close with each other that they aren’t executing tasks properly anymore. If this happens, then recognize it and separate them from each other for a period of time until they have gotten past whatever issue was causing tension between them.
  • Don’t let the team become too comfortable with each other that they won’t accept new members into their group. How are people supposed to learn if you don’t bring new members into your team? You want a balance between comfort and growth, so allow new people to join your highly cohesive project management teams when it’s appropriate.
  • Don’t let the team become too isolated from everyone else, such that they believe they should get all of the resources or not share information with other teams who could use it as well. If you do this, remember that no one likes being in an isolated environment for very long, so make sure there is a way for communication to happen between individual project management teams and also with others outside of those teams.

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