Pick a Great Project Team

Sometimes availability is the only criterion used to determine who will be part of a project team.  If Chris and Sue and John are all available and your project needs three more people, guess who the likely candidates are?  The truth is there are many other factors to consider when assembling a project team.  In fact, some people can be such bad fits you would be better off without them.  So, if you’re fortunate enough to get to choose your project team, what should you consider?  Here are a few ideas.

Choose people with the right skills

Let’s face it, if you need a brain surgeon on your team, don’t settle for a cardiologist.  Both may be doctors and both may be brilliant but they aren’t exactly interchangeable.  Before you start adding new members to your project team, ask yourself what skills your current team is lacking.  If you’re just initiating a new project, document all the skills your project team will need to be successful.  Your project probably won’t require all the skills at the same time so it’s also good to know when you will need people with each skill.  For example, if you’re going to be building the next big online retail website you will need a web designer for the software development phase of the project.  Once the website’s built the designer can roll off but you might need somebody with marketing expertise.  Knowing which skills you need and when can be a big help in determining who you should bring onto the team at any given point.

Find people who will fit

Good teams gel when people learn how to effectively work with each other.  If you’re managing a team that’s all about formal protocol, think twice before you introduce the informal, shoot-from-the-hip guy.  He may or may not be what your project team needs.  The important thing is to make sure you consider the potential impacts on the team before you bring in a new person.  At times you may want somebody to shake the team up or to show them a different way to get things done.  Just make sure you’ve thought about it first.  If you need a diplomat to work with a difficult client, don’t bring in a person who is technically amazing but always says what’s on their mind.

Get people who are interested

Even the best people can be less than stellar performers if they aren’t interested in the project. You need to find people who are sincerely interested in contributing to your project.  The good news is there are countless reasons why a person might want to work on any project.  They might enjoy working with the other people on your team.  They may personally value the benefits the project will deliver.  The project could provide an opportunity for their professional growth or it might even get them out of an undesirable situation, like a long commute or working for a tyrant.  Finding people who want to be part of the team makes it that much easier to keep them productive and motivated.

Diversify your project team

There’s a lot to be said for a diverse team of people working together.  People from different backgrounds tend to have different worldviews.  Conveniently a project team of diverse people will, by definition, view problems, challenges and opportunities from many different angles.  Even if your team’s diversity consists only of people from different departments, they will all be thinking about the project from many different perspectives.  Throw in gender, cultural or age diversity and the perspectives take on even more dimensions.  Five similar people thinking about solving a problem will not come up with that many creative solutions.  A group of five diverse individuals is much more likely to come up with a wide variety of solutions.

Look for growth opportunities

If your project offers a chance for somebody in your organization to grow, consider getting that person involved.  If there’s a software developer who’s been aching to get more involved in database administration and your team needs a developer to work closely with the DBA, it might be a perfect fit.  When the opportunity is there to help somebody grow and expand their skill set they will usually jump at the chance to get involved.  By keeping these opportunities in mind you will help crosstrain people within your organization and it will be appreciated.  People given a chance to prove themselves will work hard to be successful.  Your organization will also benefit by having a more diverse set of skills within its ranks.

Conclusion

The next time you have a chance to select, or even influence the selection of, members of your team, make sure you carefully consider your options.  The right team of people can do amazing things in the same situations where a poorly assembled team may struggle.  Look for people who will fit into the team and the environment.  Consider opportunities for people to grown and keep your team diverse.