What is a project team?

A project dream team comprises of people with the right skills and strengths working together to reach a common goal to fulfil the tasks. Building your project team will include Sponsors, customers, partners, and individual contributors. Project team members are typically drawn from other departments or disciplines. The scope and nature of the project will define its objectives. Building the right project team is hugely important to the organisation, and several things, such as skill, characteristics, and resource availability, must be assessed before choosing. It pays to put time and effort into making the correct project team.

Teamwork is a group of people collaborating or cooperating towards a common goal.

(APM Body of Knowledge, 6th Edition).

Before building your dream project team, here are points to consider:

  • What are the key objectives of the project?
  • What are the deadlines for each task?
  • Will team members be working independently, or will another employee manage them?
  • Are there any limitations on availability or budget?
  • Identify the soft and hard skills needed

Pick the right person with the right skills

You want a team whose skills complement each other and do not overpower or cause issues. Neglecting this part and picking someone based on friendship or personality could spell disaster for the project. Establish clear roles and responsibilities communicated to the entire team, not just the individual. Eliminate duplication and confusion with clarity for each project deliverable. Name those individuals who have been given ownership. Give every action or deliverable an owner.

If you have connections in different departments, utilise them. Get off your computer and talk to them face to face; drop them a message on Microsoft Teams. Find out who they would personally recommend for your project and why.

 Build connections with your project team members

Most Project Managers are busy, BUT if you have time, try conducting informal interviews. This is your chance to delve deeper into their skills and character traits, get to know them better, and give you some helpful information when putting your project dream team together.

Communicate your expectations

Before starting the project, clearly state your expectations from people. Try not to deviate too far from these when the project is in full swing; people won’t take to this very comfortably.

Outline any further requirements from people. For example, if your project requires overtime at specific points, bring this up now rather than later, as it may be an issue for some people, especially those with family.

Ask them questions

Set aside time before the project to answer any questions your project team may have. Please encourage them to ask as many questions as possible openly; this will.

Use a Project Management Tool

Using a project management solution such as Microsoft Project for the web will allow you to set up a resource pool for every human and material resource. You can search for resources based on their skills and availability—no more working from different spreadsheets.

What are the development stages in creating an effective project team?

Some classic management theories suggest that teams undergo several development stages: forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing (Dr. Bruce Tuckmann). This indicates that all teams reach a ‘performing’ stage, but many projects are delivered by people treading water in the ‘storming’ or ‘norming’ stages. They never turn into an effective team.

So ask yourself, is your project team effective? Are we still discussing who should do what? Are some team members semi-present? Are people pointing the finger at each other? Are team members hiding issues or slow to raise risks? Which of these diagrams best reflects the work your team is doing versus the defined project scope?

The Tuckmann Model of Team Development

In most instances, a project team is a group of individuals brought together for a finite period to achieve the project’s goals. They may have been recruited specifically for the project, supplied by a vendor or subcontractor, seconded from different departments, or perhaps most likely, some combination of all three.

These individuals’ performance will define the project’s success, so developing a sense of belonging (to the project) and a shared belief in a common goal is essential. The Tuckman model describes four primary phases a team goes through before it is fully effective.

Forming

The group members have just been brought together and are likely hesitant about their new environment, unsure of their latest project team colleagues and future project developments. Members tend to be polite to one another, accept authority, and tread carefully. Initial contact with colleagues will reveal common ground and possible allegiances.

Storming

Individuals have started to assert themselves and form alliances. Some conflict may arise as a “pecking order” becomes established. Aims and objectives are becoming more evident, but there are likely different views on the best way forward. Members now have a sense of belonging to a team, are gaining confidence, and are likely to challenge authority and the feasibility of the work ahead.

Norming

Internal conflicts are hopefully resolved, and the team members feel more comfortable and relaxed with their colleagues and the project environment. Open communication and constructive cooperation develop acceptance of shared values and behaviours. The team is working as it should be, with its overall capability greater than the sum of its parts.

Performing

The team is fully functional and has become a cohesive unit. Team morale is high, and there is good cooperation between members and a sense of shared responsibility for the common goal. Team members work hard and get satisfaction as objectives are achieved.

These are ideal phases but give a good explanation of likely behaviours. The target must be to achieve Performance as soon as possible.

How do you define the structure and process for project teams?

  • Let’s make things as simple as possible for the project team. Let’s clarify the defined scope of roles and responsibilities. What role do you expect each team member to perform? This role can subtly differ from their day job, so define each team member’s role and set expectations.
  • Once everyone understands the scope and their role, ensure clarity on who is responsible for each task. If four people are responsible for delivering a task, no one is.
  • Make one person Responsible for each task, highlight who will support them in completing this work, who might approve each task, and finally, who they need to Communicate with. This gives us a variant of the classic RACI Matrix but with a more practical CARS acronym.
  • List tasks planned for the next 4 – 6 weeks and apply the CARS definitions to clarify each person’s relationship with each task. Agree on start and end dates, and your team has clear goals.
  • Build on this with clearly defined processes for progress updates and issue escalation. The daily/weekly/fortnightly team meeting should happen like clockwork—at the same time and place. It becomes the project’s rhythm or heartbeat.
  • Each meeting should focus on what we achieved (honestly!) in the last period, what we plan to do in the next period, and any issues.
  • All team members must be clear on escalation routes regarding issues. If something is going wrong, what should we do? Who do we call? Make this clear so team members know how to respond when problems develop.

How to increase buy-in by project team members

People need to see why they are working on something. Consider: “Why am I on this project? I’ve got a million other things to do, and this is a low priority for me.” Ensure all team members see the bigger picture, why the project is essential, and the benefits it will bring to the organisation (and them!).

Often, a project has no more significant benefits than other initiatives, so working to create camaraderie amongst team members can make all the difference. How does your project team dynamic compare with others? Differentiate your project and make it feel special, even if the final benefits are comparable to those of other initiatives.

Ensure your project team members are dependable

An effective team is one where people can lean on each other and be confident that their team members will complete work to a suitable standard within the agreed timescale. Elite performance team focus on dependability.

This is true of any project team. We must know that team members will take ownership and complete the work.

They should not want to let the team down; this only happens when you are a committed team member. There should be a culture of support and encouragement for team members who might be struggling. When other team members go the extra yard, this builds a more vital team dynamic.

So, if you are managing a project team, ask yourself, do I have an effective team? A group of people doesn’t turn into an effective team through osmosis; the project manager has to work to develop this culture consciously.

Think of practical steps you can take and recognise that change happens over time, but the shifting sands of change must go in the right direction.

Being a Project Manager requires many skills, and developing a solid teamwork ethic is vital to the success of any project. Therefore, every good Project Manager should think about how best to establish their team as part of the project start-up phase. It is tempting to focus on planning the project deliverables, remember to prepare your team success as well!

On This Page

Monthly Newsletter

By: Hannah Francis

Hannah Francis

Published: 17 March 2024

Book onto an Event