Building a Great Project Team

From the Voices on Project Management Blog
by , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

About this Blog


View Posts By:

Cameron McGaughy
Marian Haus
Lynda Bourne
Lung-Hung Chou
Bernadine Douglas
Kevin Korterud
Conrado Morlan
Peter Tarhanidis
Mario Trentim
Jen Skrabak
David Wakeman
Roberto Toledo
Vivek Prakash
Cyndee Miller
Shobhna Raghupathy
Wanda Curlee
Rex Holmlin
Christian Bisson
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Jess Tayel
Ramiro Rodrigues
Linda Agyapong
Joanna Newman

Recent Posts

Project Planning Using Canvas

Project Management Triangles and Integrated Reasoning

Best Practices for Managing Project Escalations

Questions from Project Management Central - Interviews

The Ying and Yang of Resilience

Categories: Teams

I've worked on a number of great project teams. And I've noticed five key factors that led to us working well together--and to successful project completion.

1. Communication Tools
Good communication is a team commitment. We used tools that worked for everyone on the team. For quick communication and reports, we relied on e-mail, but chose personal visits, phone conversations or conference calls when immediate responses or further clarity was required. And for document exchange, storage and update tracking, we turned to a shared web-based tool.

2. Role Clarity
Teams work best when everyone can just work on what they know, rather than trying to figure out what they're supposed to do, and whether or not someone is covering other parts of the project. Clarifying roles in the beginning of the project helps teams steer clear of conflicts. Making sure team members focus on their specific work definitely helps keep the focus on project deliverables with a higher rate of success in the end.

3. Professionalism
No matter how odd we may feel about something that someone says or does, we have to keep our cool. It allows us to focus on the solution rather than the problem. Handling matters professionally doesn't mean teams are perfectly aligned at all times or that a team member can't make a comment about someone being late on delivering a task. But what helps teams stay together and focused on the prize is the ability to evaluate a situation and correct whatever requires correction--whether it's a communication breakdown, badly handled process or missed deliverable.

4. Fun
When appropriate, joking around and bonding outside of work can help team members get to know each other and break the barriers to communication and collaboration.

5. Authenticity and Integrity
Although two items, they work hand in hand. And they are the basis for trust on a team.

Integrity includes: keeping your word, committing only to work that you are qualified or can complete in time, keeping private discussions private, sticking to the confidentiality clauses and believing in team members.

Being authentic to yourself and others is paramount. It also means keeping others accountable for the work they do, raising concerns, and listening to the input of others.

What are some of the keys to great project teams you have seen?
Posted by Dmitri Ivanenko PMP ITIL on: December 14, 2009 03:21 PM | Permalink

Comments (14)

Please login or join to subscribe to this item
Very good points. A few of the points I would like to share: Frequent Motivation, Appreciation as required
Challenge and aim for the scalable solution and can-do attitude
Sincerity and taking responsibility

Yamini Pinto
Dear Dmitri

Along with the 5 factors mentioned for a successful project team. I personally feel that focus and determination from the team members also go a long way. And the common goal is more cherished on achieving it.

Hence as you have mentioned that "Making sure team members focus on their specific work ..." I wanted to understand how do we make sure that the team members maintain focus and determination.

Yamini Pinto

Excellent write-up. To build a successful project team all team member should have all this key factors.

Thank you!

Thanks, very useful points.

Ilya Morkovin
Are you working in Russia? Do you consider differences between russian team style and american?

The five factors you made mention in your article are key to achieving a great project report. Since project managers are perceived to be manager's, and leader's, it highly essential that these five factors be understood and digested.

Project teams are looking for a passionate communicator, one that communicates with a view of that communication is two ways, not one way. By the way, it also true that the project manager knows how to clearly enunciate role-very essential. This comes with professionalism. How can you lead without been professional. Being professional meaning the leader must lead with all requirements ethics.

These all can be achieved in a relaxed environment, team members can still fin time to share interesting things about the dinner they ate-out with family the night before. It doesn't have to be all work, work, work. "All work and no play makes jack a dull boy", remember that.

Ahmed Amin
That's great. I see also that good separation between work and personal life is a good point for both of them.

Avril Gan
I would like to add:

1. Celebrate milestones - At the end of each major delivery milestone, I always take the team out for a dinner to celebrate and to show appreciation for the hard work that they put into making this happen. This is linked to team building, motivation and appreciation.

2. Regular project status update meeting - Either at the end of the week or the beginning of the week (or both), I always hold a quick team meeting to report on the status of the project. This is also a good time for the team leaders of each sub-project to update the team and maybe tie up loose ends, if necessary.

I just want to emphasis on two things here. I completely agree that fun is indeed a great tool to use to solidify the team and keep it motivated. However, with time you need to make sure that team members will use it as tool to criticize others. It always starts with simple and general jocks to nicknames and personal jocks.

The other point is frequent motivation as reported in Anand’s comment. You have to keep the team motivated during all phases of the project and you have to keep each one motivated which requires more attention to decipher what motivate X and what motivate Y. You can not apply the same recipe to all team members.

Tom Townsend, PMP
Agreed. 4 & 5 are less assignable by mgmt but are critical to team chemistry. I have experienced a manager that verbalized authenticity and integrity at every opportunity and supported joking within our project group that brought us together on another level beside the focus of the project. I plan to use a similar style when in charge of groups in the future.

Abid Niaz Khan
Great contribution. Just another important point-believe in and attitude/ behaviour of delivering as one.

Maureen Gan
Dear Dmitri,

It was an enlightening and fulfilling message that you have shared with the community. Certainly, project communication is an essence of project foundation and project success.

3 points to share for IT projects:

1) Having shared goals and project objectives between the business and IT teams, since the alignment to a common set of project objectives, benefits would steer the members together when times are tough and decisions need to be made.

2) The team spirit is so important here! Imagine that we have a cohesive team comprising of members who shared their ideas, best practices, and their work outputs. Each of the members would feel that their contributions count.

3) Streamlining project status and reporting: many a times, project managers spend time on compiling reports. If the extent and frequency of reports could be determined, and the stakeholders could be managed to take action upon receiving them, rather than generating data and reports merely for the sake of "preparing glossy Powerpoint" slides for management.

Maureen Gan

Very good points. I think all of them are very much necessary.

If I can add something, respect for others and the work they do becomes very important to keep the bonding, more so for international teams.

Re the points from Dmitri, in my personal experience, having clear roles and responsibilities at the beginning of the project prevents most of the conflicts and embarrassing situations. Conflict within team is the last thing you want in your project. FUN plays an important role in this respect.

Dmitri Ivanenko
Thx everyone for your comments. I can definitely see how this topic engaged a number of you in further additions to the top 5 points. I agree with all additional points.

My primary view on this is pretty simple: whatever it is that is on our mind, is important to us. i.e. if the project we are on has individuals not being clear on their roles—clarity on roles and responsibilities becomes a pretty hot topic, especially when there's a clear impact on the team.

Same goes for respect among team members, attitude, motivation, focus, work and life balance, reporting/communicating on status, celebrating success and many others.

Just think about it, no matter what the area that is on your mind or is important to you, it'll come up as the key area that you are going to be preoccupied with, in your mind, in your discussions with people, in your posts, in content you are searching for, books you want to read, discussions that your ears are open to.

I especially liked the one about having a behaviour of delivering as one. My next post is on this subject.

Speaking of times when people come up with jokes and speak of others in a criticizing, non constructive manner, I would simply say that a team that has members that are authentic, will not have this issue. When people are authentic (and I could write a full book on this subject, so I will keep it short here), their motivation to speak is not guided by their ego or search for fulfilling the ego gaps. They are not out there to gossip or look for information that is cool to share. They are on the team to deliver, be proud of what result they can get out of themselves by delivering effective solutions efficiently.

Dmitri Ivanenko

Please Login/Register to leave a comment.


"The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made."

- Groucho Marx