Project Teams


The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individuals in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” ~Babe Ruth

The biggest mistake any Project Manager can make (even if they are the most experienced and knowledgeable project manager AND they follow all the correct methodologies and procedures) is to believe that they can successfully implement a project alone. The first and most important step is to create the CORRECT project team structure and to get the correct people assigned to each role within that structure.


Recent research has shown, however, that IT professionals, including supervisors and managers, continue to place a far stronger focus on technical skills than interpersonal skills. Teams are comprised of individuals, each of them contributing in a unique way to the overall effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of the team. Therefore, it only seems logical to carefully consider the human aspect when building team structures and role assignments for project development. DeCarlo (2004) defines a project team as “a small number of people with complementary subject matter expertise who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals, and a common approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”. Teams do not function in a bubble; the newly constructed project team in an organization reflects the complexity, diversity, challenges and interdependence of modern society. They come to the team as individuals, but they also come as representatives of a variety of functionalities in the organization – and often from outside the organization. As such, they typically do not have a history of working together. They have not had the time to identify or assess the social dimensions associated with successful interaction in a team environment before productivity demands must be met.

The mitigation of the challenges faced by newly-formed teams is crucial to ensure the success of the team. This has to be done not only through the various project management methods and tools, but also by ensuring that the appropriately skilled and experienced resources are assigned to the right project roles for the full time period required. Since each project can be defined as a unique process, the composition of the team for each should be carefully considered to ensure optimum project performance.

The next few articles will focus on team characteristics, diversity, and structures.

Dawie Steenkamp, PhD, PMP.

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