High Performance Work Teams

RT-134 Topic Summary
RT 134


The CII High Performance Work Teams Research Team investigated methods for establishing high performance project teams that could achieve “breakthrough” project performance. The research team has discovered a number of factors that have been shown statistically to be predictive of high performance. “High performance” is defined by the majority of survey respondents as being 10 percent or better performance against established targets for cost, schedule, safety, customer satisfaction, and rework in a project.

In the competitive world of construction, project teams have specific goals of reducing project cost and schedules. One method of achieving this is to establish high performance work teams in planning and execution.

The research team was established to:

  1. Identify common characteristics of high performance work teams in construction
  2. Establish metrics that will help the industry realize the benefits of having high performance project teams

The team found two significant predictors of reducing cost growth:

  1. Leader behavior
  2. Use of selected CII best practices

The most significant finding of the work was the importance of leader behavior on project performance. Effective leader behavior, when combined with CII best practices and appropriate member characteristics, greatly enhances the probability that project teams will achieve breakthrough performance.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Leadership Reduces Cost Growth

Projects whose leaders engaged in effective leader behaviors experience reduced cost growth. (RS134-1, p. 10)

 The research team identified 19 Leader Behaviors a few of which are: 

  1. Communicates the project’s goals
  2. Sets high standards and expectations
  3. Supports team decisions
  4. Fosters a good work ethic
  5. Interfaces well with external constituents

Refer to the publication for the complete list.

Reference: (RS134-1)

2 : CII Best Practices Reduce Cost Growth

Projects that use the CII best practices of scope management and project alignment experience reduced cost growth. (RS134-1, p. 12)
Reference: (RS134-1)

3 : CII Best Practices Reduce Schedule Growth

Projects that use the CII best practices of planning and project controls experience reduced schedule growth. (RS134-1, p. 12)
Reference: (RS134-1)

4 : Cost and Schedule Trade-Off

An apparent “trade-off” occurs between cost and schedule in achieving high performance targets. That is, a project team may achieve reductions in cost or schedule, but rarely both, even in a high performance environment. (RS134-1, pp. 12-13)
Reference: (RS134-1)

5 : Formal Team Building Not a Predictor of High Performance

No strong association was found between formal team building and either actual or perceived project high performance. Formal team building, in the absence of effective, consistent project leadership behaviors, is not a predictor of “high performance.”

However, effective leaders inherently perform continuous team building through the use of appropriate leadership practices. (RS134-1, pp. 10-13)

Reference: (RS134-1)

6 : Implementation Tool #1

IR 134-2, Tools for Effective Project Team Leadership

The tools are based on effective leadership behaviors and member characteristics identified in the research. The three tools can be used separately or together, and can cover the entire project life cycle.

Tool 1:  Leader Selection Guide. This structured decision-making tool can be used to guide selection of a project leader by a management team or by an individual. The selection process is divided into five sequential steps, with worksheets to assist in performing each.

Tool 2:  Team Leadership Planner. This tool is intended to help a project leader develop specific strategies for team leadership, again based on the set of leadership behaviors that have been identified with high performance project teams. These strategies can be integrated into the overall project execution plan to get the team off to a good start and improve the probability of achieving superior project performance through enhanced teamwork.

Tool 3:  Team Health Check. The project leader may use the Health Check tool to survey team members on his/her leadership behaviors as well as their perceptions of the characteristics of the team membership.

Reference: (IR134-2)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved schedule, Improved cost, Improved safety, Improved customer satisfaction, Improved quality (rework)

Research Publications

Tools for Effective Project Team Leadership - IR134-2

Publication Date: 05/1999 Type: Implementation Resource Pages: 27 Status: Tool

Identifying Success Factors for High Performance Project Teams - RS134-1

Publication Date: 05/1999 Type: Research Summary Pages: 27 Status: Supporting Product

Identifying Success Factors for High Performance Work Teams - RR134-11

Publication Date: 09/1998 Type: Research Report Pages: 144 Status: Reference

Presentations from CII Events

Session - Creating High Performance Project Teams

Publication Date: 06/1999 Presenter: Number of Slides: 26 Event Code: AC99