Project Management

What Does It Take to Build a Successful Project Team?

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Categories: Teams

By Lynda Bourne

I was recently involved in a discussion about why some projects fail and others succeed, even when they’re completed in similar circumstances. The most common determinant of project outcomes—both positive and negative—boiled down to the way the people delivering the project work together. A cooperative and committed team underpins success.

This led me to think about the key requirements for creating a committed and cooperative team. And while the concepts below aren’t  new, consistently creating the environment to allow them to flourish can prove challenging.  

In my opinion, the three most important factors are:

1) An agreed-upon objective: Defining the project objective in a way people understand is the starting point. For one person, a “great website” may mean a technical marvel with all the bells and whistles. But for someone else, it may mean a simple, easy-to-use presence. It’s up to project leaders to get the team aligned—committing to an objective that’s not going to be delivered creates disenchantment.

2) An efficient team organization. Options can range from self-organizing teams to traditional leader-follower models. What really matters is that the team works in a coordinated and organized way, and this requires good, multidirectional communication to work.

3) Trust between team members. This last element is probably the most important—and least understood. You don’t need to like someone to trust them. In fact, you don’t even need to know someone to trust them.  In an emergency, for example, it’s common to see a group of strangers form into a self-organized team and work together—often in quite dangerous situations—so things are stabilized. This is often referred to as “swift trust.” More traditional trust builds on reputation and observed experiences. Either type works, but you need trust. Without that, you’re not going to rely on the other people in the group to do the right thing to help you and the rest of the group achieve your shared objective.


In the modern world, people work on projects in all sorts of ways: virtually, in agile scrums, in traditional hierarchical teams and in myriad groupings. The people may come from one organization or many. Regardless of the group structure, one thing remains true: Project success comes down to effective teamwork. 


What are your tips on creating an environment that allows project teams to flourish?

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: April 13, 2021 07:32 PM | Permalink

Comments (6)

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Dear Lynda
Very interesting the theme that brought to our reflection and debate
Thanks for sharing and your opinion
There are two important issues to consider when approaching teams
1. Team building
2. Teamwork
As much as we want: "You can make an omelette without breaking eggs"

Lynda, thank you for sharing, building trust is one of the most challenging

Excellent points all around! And I would certainly agree the last point about trust being the most important. Without some baseline of trust, team members are focused on protecting themselves from internal "threats" versus external goals.

A diverse team (background, nationalities, gender, expertise...) can also add lots of value to bring different perspectives on the table.

The benefits you mention Manuel arising from diversity are real but they only occur if the diverse group of individuals come together as a team - the problem is building the team and this is significantly more difficult with a diverse group.

That's so true Lynda and it's even harder if the team is diverse and also interact virtually.
From my experience, if we are capable to build and develop a truly diverse team, the long term benefits outweigh the effort.

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