The Apollo Syndrome and Project Management

As project manager you do your best to put together a team of highly qualified individuals. After all, in project management you want everything to run smoothly and efficiently, right? A discovery by Dr. Meredith Belbin called the Apollo Syndrome however proves that the project manager should think twice before loading a team with highly analytical minds.

In his studies Belbin found that having too many people with a high mental abilities was, in many instances, detrimental to the teamwork process. The people studied spent much of their time trying to persuade the team to adopt their own views as well as figuring out ways to point out weaknesses in the rest of the team’s ideas. They had difficulty reaching consensus in decisions and team members focused on their own work, paying little attention to what their fellow team members were doing. Occasionally the team would pick up on the fact they were having problems, but would then overcompensate to avoid confrontation. This led to even more problems in making sound decisions.

If, during project management, you see the Apollo Syndrome happening it should be addressed immediately. First of all, ask the group what they agree on. You may not get a concrete answer in which case you should be more assertive and get them to focus on areas of agreement. A helpful project management tool is a flip-chart which can be used to record the things everyone can agree upon. This exercise should help the team realize how unimportant their disagreements are and get them working toward common goals.

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