How do you go about assembling a team? What are some of the key considerations? How can you be sure that you have chosen “the best” people for your team?
Let’s take a look at these and other questions beginning with a brief discussion of why it is so important to get the right people on your project team and concluding with ten steps to putting together an effective group.
Let me begin by saying that I have not always been successful in assembling the ideal project teams, but over time I’ve learned something from my mistakes, as well as from carefully watching others who excel at building great teams. This stands in contrast to many managers who are either unaware of the impact people have on a project’s success or who choose to ignore it.
The following are ten steps I have found most helpful in assembling an effective project team:
- Define the skills and competencies you need to do the project successfully – If you don’t know what you need, how can you be sure that your people do?
- Identify individuals who have demonstrated success in these areas – Don’t rely on “paper” credentials alone. Instead, find out from colleagues or others familiar with them whether those whom you are considering possess the requisite skills and competencies.
- Acquire a thorough understanding of a candidate’s past performance – Try to talk with at least three references (preferably more) and ask specific questions about the candidate’s performance to determine whether his or her past performance is relevant and predictive of future success on your project.
- When selecting candidates, choose those who have demonstrated both competence (ability to perform the job) and character (willingness to do whatever it takes) – Competence alone may get you through the technical aspects of a project, but doing so with people that lack integrity will almost certainly cause more problems than it solves.
- When it comes down to two or more equally qualified individuals, choose the one whose personality style best fits what it will take for him or her to be successful in your organization – If Tom is as competent as Joe but not as well-liked by key project stakeholders such as your organization’s staff and customers, then go with Joe.
- Avoid “bolting” people onto your team – If you have an opening on your team, don’t recruit someone just because it seems like the thing to do. Instead, take the time to analyze whether or not he or she is a good fit for both you and your project before making any commitments.
- Make sure that every member of your team can fully support his or her part(s) of the project plan – In other words, if Fred is going to be responsible for end-to-end testing, make sure he isn’t also part of writing the test cases, has no other projects on his plate that may cause him to become distracted from this project, and so on.
- When assembling your team, strive to include at least one member who can add value in more than one way – For example, someone who is not only technically competent but also possesses a high degree of interpersonal skills would be useful for getting things done with people outside your group. In contrast, someone who has proven to be extremely competent in his or her area of expertise without being overbearing (i.e., arrogant) is equally valuable for reaching across organizational silos to gain support from others required for success.
- Whenever possible, try to assemble cross-functional teams – That is, groups whose members share the same priorities and goals will be more likely to work together seamlessly to achieve them than a team whose members come from different functional silos.
- When assembling your team, don’t just think about the now – Think also about what will happen when you need “new blood” to replace those who move on and/or retire. In other words, plan for the long term because otherwise, it may be short-lived.