Projects are a team effort, and with the growth of online project tools and virtual teams, the people on your team could come from anywhere. They could have a wide range of skills too. In fact, it’s easier today than it has ever been to get the right people for your team because you can draw of off-shore and consultancy resource, or even that subject matter expert who works part-time in the next city.
You’re no longer limited to using the resources that work in the same office as you.
However, even if in your business there are constraints about who you can use to work on your project team, you should consider the final makeup of that team. Here are some criteria for building a winning project team.
Before you bring someone on to the team based on their availability it helps to know what you want them to be available for – full-time, part-time? – and for how long. Then you can talk to their line manager and work out whether they are a suitable candidate for your team.
This is the most common way to choose resources for your project team. You need to get started now, so you have to find people who can join you now. Generally this means taking people who just happen to be finishing their current project, or who are returning from time off and haven’t yet been allocated to something new.
You could also find yourself working with part-time members of staff who are able to commit to your project on the basis of a couple of days a week. They may not be available more than that, and you may find that is adequate for your purposes.
Experience counts for a lot on a project because projects create something new. It’s unlikely that you’ll find someone who has done exactly the same thing before, but you might do, especially if it is a generally routine operation such as upgrading a piece of software to the next version. When you start to work on things like product launches you won’t find people who have experience in exactly the same launch, but you can add people to your team who have worked on similar product launches before. This experience will give you a valuable head start on the project and hopefully help you avoid silly mistakes.
It’s a good idea to ask your experienced team members to share lessons from their past projects before you get this current project underway.
You can be an expert without having much practical experience: for example a software developer new out of university with a degree in a particular coding language could have more expertise in building your new app than someone with 20 years of experience as a developer in your IT department.
Don’t confuse the two, but make sure that you are adding the person to your team for the right reasons.
These three criteria are the ones that are most often used to select people for the project team (the first one especially). If you have the option to be a bit more selective, here are some other criteria to consider.
4. Technical Literacy
I am a huge fan of technical literacy and I hope that as I get older I won’t lose my ability too adapt to new ways of working and new online tools.
If you can, choose people for your team with the level of aptitude that will help them succeed and fit in on the project. For example, if you are going to be using online scheduling tools, you’ll want them to be comfortable with cloud tech and also have a positive attitude to data sharing and transparency.
Remember that you can always teach technical skills. If you feel that someone would make a great addition to your team but they don’t have the requisite skills in the apps you’ll be using or much experience of virtual work, then they can learn. Assuming that they are willing to pick up new skills, and that you are willing to teach them, they could still be a valuable asset once they are up to speed.
5. Collaboration Skills
Project teams thrive when everyone collaborates. The best teams have an open approach to sharing their knowledge and experience and are happy to work together. They are even happy to work outside their immediate job description if that is what it takes to get the work done.
The ability to collaborate with colleagues is definitely something you should look for in your potential team members. If you have the choice of two candidates for your team and one is better at collaboration than the other, then go for the one who you know will work well in a team setting.
As a project manager you should weigh up whether these criteria have given you the team you really want for your project. In certain situations you could talk to your sponsor about delaying your project to make sure that you have the most appropriate people, not just the ones who are available right now. If you are at all worried about the makeup of the team, don’t start the project and hope for the best, talk to your manager, the project sponsor and even the individuals themselves so that you all have confidence that together you will get the best result for the company.