Mastering the Basics of Project Management: the Project Team – Part 1

“Remember, the President, Congress, OMB, NASA HQ, senior center management and your customer all have jobs to do. All you have to do is keep then all happy”.

– Jerry Madden –

project team is a team whose members usually belong to different groups, functions and are assigned to activities for the same project. Usually project teams are only used for a defined period of time. They are disbanded after the project is deemed complete. Due to the nature of the specific formation and disbandment, project teams are usually in organizations.

A team is defined as “an interdependent collection of individuals who work together towards a common goal and who share responsibility for specific outcomes of their organisations”. An additional requirement to the original definition is that “the team is identified as such by those within and outside of the team”. 

As project teams work on specific projects, the first requirement is usually met. In the early stages of a project, the project team may not be recognised as a team, leading to some confusion within the organisation. The central characteristic of project teams in modern organisations is the autonomy and flexibility availed in the process or method undertaken to meet their goals.

Most project teams require involvement from more than one department, therefore most project teams can be classified as cross functional team. The project team usually consists of a variety of members often works under the direction of a project manager or a senior member of the organisation.

Projects that may not receive strong support initially often have the backing of a project champion. Individual team members can either be involved on a part time, or full time basis. Their time commitment can change throughout the project depending on the project development stage.

Project teams need to have the right combination of skills, abilities and personality types to achieve collaborative tension. Teams can be formulated in a variety of ways. The most common method is at the discretion of a senior member of the organisation.

One of the most important steps of a project is to carefully choose the team members. This is not an easy job to do, because it requires a lot of objectivity and you must keep in mind the goal of the project and not the sympathy for certain persons. Before choosing the team you must think what kind of specialists or skills you need exactly and this is the main thing you must consider when you choose the members: their specialty and your need for it.

There are some tips that can help you to create and manage a project team. Let’s see it:

  1. Clear roles and responsibilities – does everyone know what the team is aiming to achieve and how they are expected to contribute?  Who is responsible for which tasks? Who needs to be involved in which tasks?
  2. Build a team communication plan. Besides meeting ground rules, which should be set at the first meeting, you want to establish communication channels among team members so there can be an exchange of information in a timely and accurate way. If you plan to use reports — either in print or online — define the content, level of detail, and format for the reports. If you plan to use meetings, agree upfront how often they will be held and where, when they will be scheduled, and who will be responsible for agendas, minutes, and other logistics.
  3. Besides a group communication plan, meet with each team member to devise a strategy to ensure that information does not fall through a crack. It’s amazing how feathers can be ruffled when they get accidentally left out of the loop on key information.
  4. Keep the team’s mission upfront from the first day. Members should be clear about the project’s mission when they agree to work on the project. You may adapt the mission as you proceed, but you need to be sure that everyone is in agreement with the mission through the life of the project, and any changes to the mission are acceptable to the project’s sponsor.
  5. During meetings, ask questions to clarify or gather information on topics. Encourage probing and constructive questions. Members shouldn’t be embarrassed to say, I didn’t understand. Would you please say that in another way so that I can understand?
  6. Be flexible. As project manager, you have the formal authority that comes with the position. That doesn’t mean you should dominate the group. Rather, rely on interpersonal skills to get others to cooperate toward achieving common goals.
  7. Accept that teams and groups go through a well-known cycle of development – forming, storming, norming, performing, adjourning.  As a manager you clearly want your team to spend the majority of time in the performing stage. This is when the team produces great work, they all work together well and the atmosphere is a real buzz.  Understand that there is a process at work here, and you can manage it – however each phase needs to be gone through for the team to ultimately perform.

In the next articles, we will talk about team management, virtual project teams and international project teams. Stay tuned!


2 thoughts on “Mastering the Basics of Project Management: the Project Team – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Mastering the basics of project management: the Project Plan « Nelson Biagio Jr

  2. Pingback: Mastering the Basics of Project Management: Managing Distributed Project Teams | Nelson Biagio Jr

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