c = N (N-1) / 2

It is a connections problem. If you are an engineer, you have seen this many times, calculating the possible number of angles with any given number of rays. The real world power of this formula is far more interesting.

If you don’t remember your PMP study materials, this is also the equation which represents the number of possible communications paths in a group or team. If I am on a team with one other person, for example, where N represents the number of team members, my simple algebra tells me that there is only one possible communication path between us. If I am on a team of six members, however, suddenly there are 15 possible communication channels in action. Twelve team members? Sixty-six channels.

Then, we can begin to factor in the outside influencers.

An experienced project manager can tell you just how complicated the team dynamic can become without looking at the math. But while many talk about this communication challenge as something to conquer, to beat, or to control, take just a moment to think about the power that your team network can create.

  1. Increased bandwidth = Increased process throughput: Like lanes on a highway, the more communication pathways you have open and flowing clearly, the more project traffic you are able to put on those roads.
  2. Create new knowledge from previously discrete data sets: Einstein once said, “Information is not knowledge.” Yet we often mistake data for understanding. Leverage the power of the collective team network to process problems and make connections a single individual could never tackle alone.
  3. Community: When challenged to increase processing and work toward clear communication channels, bonds grow within the team network that are not far afield from a family dynamic — and for some, this bond is even stronger than family.

Take a moment to examine your own team infrastructure. How do you exercise your teams? How do you build community?

Training. One of the best tools for developing new teams is to attend a team training. The Cadence Project Management seminar is one in which teams traditionally attend in a group; they take the time to work together with coaching in the classroom to develop their projects. To maximize results, consider the value of not just the course content, but the added value of team members working together to acquire it.

Online. The Facebook generation — the Millennials — have an advantage over many of us: they have an inherent understanding of the power of their invisible network. They connect online in seconds to create software, build virtual worlds, and rekindle powerful relationships. If your organization has an online tool that can serve a similar purpose, use it. But make sure it is more than a simple content management system. Storing files is one thing. Building relationships requires discussion, sharing, knowledge transfer, and understanding.

Share. When you are together, sharing time in a face-to-face meeting, remember that you are more than just team members. You are more than just resources. For each other, you are valuable colleagues. Build your team’s social network, and leverage the power of your connections for project success!