In previous training blog articles, I have been focused upon the Microsoft Project scheduling tool, in this article I consider an element of the people mix that we cover on our project management training courses focusing specifically on project teams.

At Wellingtone we believe that project success is down to people, processes and tools. Having great Project & Portfolio Management tools and processes in place is of little benefit if the people element of the mix is not right.

Projects invariably involve people working together as a team, sometimes the team is well established but in a lot of cases the team will have been assembled expressly for the purposes of delivering the project. As a consequence building an effective and high performing team is a vital ingredient in project success. So what do we need to know when it comes to building our teams?

I was talking with my sister recently and she was saying how she spends a good amount of time these days on the side-lines watching my nephew at his football training. We both love football and support the same Premier League team, watching them play at their recently built 60,000 seat stadium in North London (no prizes for guessing the team!) being something we do a couple of times a season.

This got me thinking about how teams evolve and develop. The difference between those playing in the local park and those on the world stage is, however, huge and is as a result of many factors, the most significant being practise and application. A professional footballer dedicates their entire being to the game whereas for most people playing football is a welcome diversion from their regular work.

Practise makes permanent and for professional footballers practise practise practise is the answer. This in turn requires application and dedication. For something so simple in concept the prospect of dedicating thousands of hours to perfecting skills takes a special kind of dedication.

For every player making it to a team in the premier league there will be hundreds who play at a lower level but for whom playing football is still a job although perhaps nowhere near as lucrative in terms of rewards. There will then be those who went through the process but failed to make the grade.

I don’t know what the statistics are but I would imagine that for every player who makes it to the national team there will be tens of thousands of candidates who failed to make the grade. The rewards are great but the chances of success incredibly slim.

Management, coaching and conditioning all have a part to play in transforming potential into reality – providing the right direction and the perfect environment in which to flourish are the ingredients that can transform the prospects of individuals.

Managing individuals and getting them to work together as a team must be an incredibly challenging proposition especially when ego and personalities are part of the mix.

So what has any of this got to do with Project Teams?

How do you transition from a collection of enthusiastic but not necessarily top of the league players to an optimised group performing to a high level with a competitive edge?

Do you want your team to be akin to a Sunday morning league team representing the local pub or do you want to be competing at a higher level, achieving great results and in the process attracting star players from beyond the immediate locale?

Practise is important, however, in a commercial environment the cost of failure or at the very least making a few mistakes can be quite considerable. Mentoring team members, providing them with direction, having processes in place, feedback and training can all help to elevate their performance to the point where they are valuable team players.

Professional football teams engage in training continuously, even on match days there will be training sessions although not as rigorous as those on a training day. In these sessions, players will practise their role under intense supervision and will be given feedback on a continuous basis.

Sometimes their playing position will be changed to see how they perform in a slightly unfamiliar role, testing to see if they have transferrable skills.

The advent of technology such as ProZone has seen powerful analytics of performance, both physical and tactical, introduced into the professional game with the top teams having their own performance evaluation departments dedicated to analysing the data not just on their own players but also the opposition.

Having a mechanism in place to monitor performance and check results is therefore important. How well do we monitor the performance of our teams and how do we use feedback to help team members develop their skills and excel in their role?

Clearly defined roles and responsibilities distinguish professional teams from the amateurs. Watching a team of junior school kids playing the game will invariably mean 20 kids running as one after the ball. As players mature they will become more aware of their role and how tactically important it is. For players in professional teams, they will have honed their skills and fitness to excel in their position.

The environment has an important impact on performance, having a workplace that has been designed to enhance performance is another key part of the team jigsaw. Football teams have moved from relatively simple training arrangements to facilities that include gymnasia, treatment rooms, pools and hydrotherapy as well as dining facilities where nutritionally optimised meals are served with different players having totally different meal plans devised for them by conditioning coaches.

How well does the working environment we provide our teams to help them to succeed in their project? Well-designed space with good ergonomics, natural light, ventilation and comfort will all contribute to a productive environment. Well organised space with a minimum of clutter will also help promote clarity and focus.

Fostering team spirit is also important. Football teams spend a lot of time together, in training, at the match and also in the build-up to the match. In this day and age, a team will stay together in a hotel the night before each match, home or away. How do you go about fostering a sense of common purpose and togetherness in your team?

Technology can help to bridge any geographic distance that may exist between your team members. Collaborative platforms provide teams with the ability to instantly share information that can be vital to the success of a project. Getting people together at appropriate times in the project can help foster team spirit.

Attracting talent, either from within an organisation or by recruiting from outside plays an important part in determining success.

Internal candidates may not always be the star player in their role but sometimes having someone on the team who wants to learn and develop new skills as part of their career development may be a better option than recruiting the top dog. An appreciation of individual personalities and the group dynamic may also mean that your selection criteria are not solely based upon the performance of the role itself.

In this day and age candidates can research potential employers quite easily so the ability to demonstrate the attraction of your organisation to potential employees is important. Being able to offer candidates a complete package will like as not attract high calibre candidates, environment, opportunity and of course rewards all play a part.

A lot of people get quite animated when it comes to the rewards of top footballers, Wayne Rooney earns as much in a week as a complete team of theatre nurses earn in a year or something along those lines of comparison. I cannot justify the rewards on offer but on the other hand, the rewards are pretty meritocratic.

There are relatively few if any barriers to entry when it comes to becoming a professional footballer. The game is the same for those in your local park as it is for those on the pitch in Brazil. Boots, ball, kit and that is pretty much it. The rewards on offer to the star players are a function of the appeal of the product. Football as an industry has many commercial opportunities for generating revenue and given the results-oriented nature of the business these funds are directed almost exclusively towards attracting and retaining the best talent available.

I am not suggesting rewards akin to the Premiership but an element of performance-related reward is not a bad idea.

In my next article, I intend to focus on the steps to success and how the team plays a big part in this.