How Johari Window Helps Build Effective Project Teams

When project teams contain a mix of productive, high-performing members, they often succeed at quickly completing projects. A common characteristic of these effective project teams is the presence of coherent and constructive interpersonal communication. In contrast, previous studies show that one in five unsuccessful projects is due to ineffective communication.

Teams can use tools like a Johari window to increase communication and understanding between members.

Communication issues in project teams

Communication is vital in project management, where different individuals with unique skills and experiences are assigned multiple tasks that move toward a unified goal and satisfy a singular objective.

What happens to a project team if clear and meaningful communication is missing?

  • Lack of clear vision – Each team member may have a different vision of what the end project goal is, so there will be confusion that can cause delay or failure.
  • Lack of coordination and cooperation – When team members don’t have a clear understanding of what their individual roles are, there may be gaps or duplication of effort.
  • Lack of constructive communication – If team members do not know who is responsible for what, they cannot perform their work well, especially if it is dependent on another team member’s work. Instead of cooperation and support, there will be finger-pointing and excuses that don’t help in the progress of the project.
  • Lack of recognition and appreciation – When team members don’t have a clear definition of team roles and responsibilities, their efforts may go unrecognized. This can lower the team’s morale and dampen the members’ motivation to perform well.

Johari window

The Johari window is a tool developed by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham and named from the combination of their first names. It is a two-by-two grid that represents the subject’s understanding of themselves and the impression by others. These grids or window panes can be filled by adjectives from a selection of 56 words chosen by the subject and their peers to best describe the subject.

The left column includes quadrants known to the subject. The right column includes quadrants unknown to the subject. The upper row includes quadrants known to others, while the lower row includes quadrants unknown to others. Based on these descriptions, the four quadrants or grids are labeled as follows:

  • Quadrant I. Open area or Arena (left upper quadrant) – What the subject and others know about the subject.
  • Quadrant II. Blind spot (right upper quadrant) – What the subject does not know about themselves, but others do
  • Quadrant III. Hidden area (left lower quadrant) – What the subject knows about themselves, but others don’t
  • Quadrant IV. Unknown area (right lower quadrant) – What the subject and others don’t know about the subject

How Johari window helps build better teams

The Johari window can be used as a team building tool. Team members can go through the exercise of matching, placing, and discovering the different adjectives in the different quadrants, thereby uncovering what is commonly known and what is not.

The goal of the exercise is to enlarge the Open area by letting the subject open up and disclose more information to their team members. This will minimize the hidden area. Then the subject will receive feedback from others to minimize the blind spot area. By enlarging the Open area, the team discovers information or insight that helps them better understand the subject.

As a team member enlarges their open area and discusses the adjectives used to describe them, the team begins to communicate better. Along with this discussion, several things happen to each member and to the team as a whole:

  • They improve their self-awareness
  • They enable personal development
  • They build trust with their team
  • They enhance interpersonal communication

Leadership is key to successful communication

Teams go through different stages of development, and each stage has its own challenges. Leadership in every stage is crucial, but teams will find greater success if led through the Johari window exercise early. Aside from improving the open area of each team member, the project leader can enlarge the open area of the team collectively. This results in the free exchange of more ideas and experiences and helps to build trust among teammates.

As a project team becomes self-aware, it better understands its strengths and weaknesses. They can pursue development in areas that need improvement. They trust each other enough to disclose information and to give feedback. Also, clear and meaningful interpersonal communication occurs that prevent many project issues.

Jose Maria Delos Santos

Jose Maria Delos Santos

Jose is a subject matter expert and member of the writing team for Project-Management.com and Bridge24. He has written hundreds of articles including project management software reviews, books reviews, training site reviews, and general articles related to the project management industry.

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