What Does it Take to Build a Great Project Team?

Assembling a high-performing project team requires more than a recruiter and a handful of job descriptions. To achieve consistent project success, your group must have the necessary skills and experience to execute the kinds of initiatives your company normally undertakes. They must also be committed to maintaining forward momentum in the face of obstacles and challenges.

project team

But a winning project team is about more than the individual members. PMs need to provide guidance and encouragement, along with access to higher-level skills when necessary. Company-level support is also important—with tools, resources, and even training—to help the team overcome problems and capitalize on opportunities.

As you work to develop the best project team possible to meet your organization’s needs, consider some key areas that will heavily influence your long-term success.

Begin by defining your focus

To build a great team, you first need to know what you want to achieve. Do you expect to routinely execute complex, strategic, or high-impact projects? Will your team typically work as one unit or do you often break the group into squads to handle smaller initiatives? Does your existing team include some seasoned professionals capable of mentoring members with less experience, or will you need to recruit senior-level employees to build a good base? With your needs in hand, you can go after the type of staff best able to move your efforts ahead.

Understand your culture

If your organization’s environment is out of sync with good project management principles and practices, it will be tough to sustain a high-performing team. Experienced candidates will soon become frustrated when they don’t receive the necessary support to power through obstacles. Their morale will drop once they discover that internal communication systems are broken or critical infrastructure is missing. Job satisfaction will also take a hit over time, potentially pushing key employees to leave for opportunities elsewhere.

The culture within the project team is important, of course. Your employees need to be enthusiastic about working individually and as a team. They should know they’ll be recognized for hard work and that good results will be rewarded. Coaching is also key to continuously expanding your team’s skills.

Your internal operations don’t exist in a vacuum, though. PMs also need to consider the climate outside their group.

Why does the company’s culture matter?

An organization that isn’t set up for repeatable project success will seriously interfere with a PM’s ability to build a strong team. Companies with negative project cultures share some worrying traits:

  • Dominated by silos
  • Complacent about poor relationships and/or weak communications across functional boundaries
  • Hampered by bureaucracy, politics, and egos
  • Unwilling to prioritize projects
  • Noncommittal when it comes to sticking to a project plan
  • Wary of sharing strategic goals or other high-level information with the project team

Addressing these systemic issues is difficult but PMs must make an honest assessment of their company’s culture. Understanding how the wrong environment can erode the organization’s ability to attract and retain good candidates, it may be possible to work with the senior leadership group on implementing some high-level changes.

Ensure you have the right partners

Few businesses can employ a team with the range of skills and knowledge needed to execute their entire project portfolio. It’s often more cost- and time-efficient to develop a solid core group and then augment their competencies with niche expertise when it’s needed. By establishing a partnership with an experienced project management consulting firm now, your organization will be in a position to pounce on mission-critical opportunities and hit the ground running when a can’t-fail project enters the horizon.


PMAlliance, Inc offers project management consultingproject management training and projecportfolio management services.

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