How to Organize Project Teams for On Time, On Budget Results


Project teams are typically formed for a single and specific purpose... to complete assigned projects according to plan and budget.  But that's only part of the story.  Every project team must have a mission (that's stating the obvious), but without an effective, suitably "aligned" organizational structure, that mission may be little more than a lofty goal - not a realistic objective.  That's why "goal oriented team organization" (G.O.O.) is so useful.  Read on to learn more.

The project team is a working unit of individual parts, sharing a common goal, achieved through the structured application of combined skills. Unity of purpose is essential to success, but team unity is not a given. Teams start off as a unit, but once the work begins, the individual "parts" have minds of their own. And, in fact, individuality and creativity is a key component of the team dynamic.   (Also Read: Keeping Project Teams Active and Motivated)

What's the difference between a project team and a project committee?  To find out, turn to our project committee article and infographics series, starting with 4 Steps to Steering Committee Success.

Getting Started: 5 Keys to Team Organization

While team mission, composition and structure will vary according to project specifics, certain standards must always apply if a team is to be productive and successful. As project teams are organized, five (5) key variables can be used to determine overall team "organization":

  1. Team Member Sources.  Can you hire contractors and/or consultants, and if so, will this help you get the project done on time and on budget?
  2. Organizational Boundaries.  The need to reach out to other organizational units to complete the project. i.e. Do you need to cross organizational boundaries to get this project done? If so, what are the organizational implications? How will resource conflicts be resolved?
  3. Resource Availability.  The need to allocate resources based on full-time availability, part-time availability, and multi-role overlay (one person having multiple responsibilities). i.e. Do you need a full-time, dedicated project team? Can resources handle multiple assignments without damaging burn-out?
  4. Required Expertise. The use of specialized resources, available for interim, ad-hoc project work without official assignment to the project team. i.e. Do you have access to specialized skills? Can the project be managed with a core team and ad-hoc assignments as needed?
  5. Organizational Options. How can available and required resources be most effectively organized to maximize unity of purpose, while leveraging specialized skills and personal creativity?

Time for a Team: "Goal Oriented Organization" (G.O.O.)

When it doubt, let your "goals" lead the way.  Goal-oriented organization (G.O.O.) uses defined project goals and objectives as a guideline for team structure and composition (ensuring that team structures are properly "defined, aligned and approved" considering key project definitions).   This approach is used in order to increase the likelihood of project success,  maximize productivity and minimize project "resource-related" risk.

  • To produce the required deliverables according to plan.
  • To use structured communication mechanisms (meetings, status reports and related practices) to promote information flow, informed consent, decision escalation, and problem resolution.
  • To cooperate and collaborate, treating all team members with courtesy and respect.
  • To follow assigned work responsibilities, minimizing redundancies, and leveraging complementary skills.
  • To promote a positive work environments designed to encourage an open exchange of ideas, dissent and feedback.

Some closing thoughts….

Team requirements will depend largely on the project characteristics and the skills needed for planning, execution and implementation. The team approach to project delivery is the norm due to the diversity of business, management and technical skills required to complete most projects. As such, project size, scope, visibility, complexity, cost and risk variants will determine the number of resources required, and the related skills. The first step to team success begins with initial organization…. to assemble and organize available resources capable of working together as a whole through the integration of individual skills, talents and personalities. 


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