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Organizing a Team Project

As a project manager, your job is very similar to the team leader from one of your favorite spy caper movies: putting together a team that has all the skills to get the job done. You will need to deal with many issues that rarely come up in a spy movie, however, such as characters who dodge work and complain about the difficulty of the job. This article will help you deal with some of these problems. It is excerpted from the book IT Project Management: On Track from Start to Finish, Second Edition by Joseph Phillips (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2004; ISBN: 0072232021).

  1. Organizing a Team Project
  2. Learning Is Hard Work
  3. Where Do You Live?
  4. How to Interview
  5. Phases of Team Development
  6. Use Experience
  7. Interviewing the Vendor
  8. After Hiring the Consultant
  11. Quiz Answers
By: McGraw-Hill/Osborne
Rating: starstarstarstarstar / 19
May 26, 2005

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Organizing a Project Team

Think of your favorite spy caper movie. Remember how the team in the movie is assembled? Each member has a specialty: explosives, gadgets, luck with the opposite sex, and other necessary skills to get the job done. Notice how there’s never just an extra character walking around slurping coffee, dodging work, and whining about how tough his job is? Unfortunately, in the world of IT project management, you’ll have both types of characters.

As a project manager, you will recruit the die-hard dedicated workers who are genuinely interested in the success of the project. These team members are exciting to be around as they love to learn, love technology, and work hard for the team and the success of the project. The other type of team members you’ll encounter are nothing less than a pain in the, er, neck. These folks could care less about the project, the success of the company, or anyone else on the team. Their goal is to complete their required hours, draw a paycheck, and get on with their lives.

The reality is, however, most people want to do a good job. Most team members are generally interested in the success of the project. If you get stuck with one of the rotten apples, there are methods to work with them—and around them. This chapter will focus on how you, the project manager, can assemble a team that works well together. Your team may not be in any spy movies, but parts of the project can be just as exciting.

Assessing Internal Skills

Whether you get to handpick your project team or your team is assigned to you by management, you will still need to get a grasp on the experience levels of each team member. If you have an understanding of what your team members are capable of doing, the process of assigning tasks within the WBS and creating the project plan will go much easier for you.

As a project manager, you must create a method to ascertain the skills of your team. It would, no doubt, be disastrous to your project if you began assigning tasks to team members only to later learn they were not qualified to do the work assigned to them. In some cases, this will be easier to do than others, especially if you’ve worked with the team members before, interviewed the team members, or completed a skills assessment worksheet.

Experience Is the Best Barometer

As you gain experience as a project manager, you will learn which people you’d like on your team—and which you wouldn’t. If you are a consultant brought into the mix to manage an IT implementation, you’ll have to learn about the team members, their goals, and their abilities.

You must use strategies to recruit and woo knowledgeable and hard-working team members onto your team. This means, of course, you’ll have to do fact-finding missions to gain information on your recruits. As Figure 6-1 demonstrates, you have available to you many methods to assess internal skills.

Once you’ve started your fact-finding mission, rely on multiple methods to assess internal skills:

  • Prior projects Obviously if you’ve worked with your team members prior to this project, you’ll have a good idea who’s capable of what tasks. You’ll also have a record, through historical information, of who’s reliable, dependable, and thorough, and has other traits of a good worker.

  • Organizational knowledge You may not have worked directly with particular team members who have been assigned to your project, but you might have a good idea of their track record. Let’s face the facts: in your organization, it’s likely there are people you haven’t worked with, but you know the type of workers they are by their reputation, their ability to accomplish, and what others say about them. Gossip is one thing, but proven success (or failure) is another. The best way to learn about someone, of course, is not through hearsay, but to work with him or speak directly with his manager.

  • Recommendation of management You may not have the luxury of selecting your team members like you’re picking a kickball team at recess. You’ll probably be able to recruit some members of your team, but not all of them. Functional or Senior Management will have an inside track on the abilities of employees and can, and will, recommend members for your project. Management will also be able to select individuals who can commit time to the project.

Figure 6-1.  Assesment of Internal Skills is derived from multiple sources


  • Recommendation of team members Most likely, you will have other IT professionals within your organization whom you trust and confide in. These folks can help you by recommending other winners for your team. These individuals are likely in the trenches working side-by-side with other IT pros. Use their “scouting” to find excellent members to work on your project.
Resumes and Skill Assessments

Another source, if you have privy to the document, is the resume for each team member. A resume can quickly sum up the skill set of a team member. You may want the project team to create quick resumes for you in order to learn about the experiences of individual members. Use caution with this approach, however. Resumes have the connotation of getting, or keeping, a job, and your team members may panic. If you want to use this method but are uneasy using the word “resume,” have the team members create a list of projects they have worked on, their skills, and other past accomplishments. This will give you a way to quickly understand the collection of talent and then assign work to the team.

A collection of skills will also allow you to determine if you have the resources to complete the project. For example, if you’re about to create a database that will span 18 states, with multiple servers, and provide real-time transactions for clients, it’ll be tough to do if none of your team members have worked with relational databases before.

Create a Roles and Responsibilities Matrix

A Roles and Responsibilities Matrix is a method to identify all of the roles within a project and the associated responsibilities to the project work. This matrix is an excellent way to identify the needed roles for the project participants, identify what actions they’ll need to take in the project, and, ultimately, determine if you have all of the roles to complete the identified responsibilities. Here’s a quick example of a matrix for a software rollout project: Here’s the legend for this matrix:


Project Manager

Application Developer

Network Engineer

ZenWorks Expert

Create the application





Test the application





Package the application





Test the application release





Push the application to the workstations





Here's the legend for this matrix:

A = Approves
R = Reviews
P = Participant
C = Creator

The Roles and Responsibilities Matrix can help the project manager identify the needed resources to complete the project work—and determine if the resources exists within the organization’s resource pool. Later in the project, the project manager will use an even more precise matrix called the Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) to identify which tasks are assigned to which individuals. We’ll talk more about this coming up.

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