Selecting Your Project Team
Your project team will do the tasks necessary to bring the project to fruition. You will have to act as your own scout, seeking out the people who best fit the positions you need to fill. Although you may begin by assessing contractors to help you build that new family room on your house, you will also need to decide who will paint the room, furnish it, and so on.
Team members come in all shapes and sizes. They may be top professionals or your eight-year-old who is helping you plan that big summer trip to Europe. As long as each one brings something to the project, he is a valuable team member.
What can your eight-year-old bring to the project that you don't already know? He can give you the expectations of Europe through the eyes of a child. Children look at the world differently and present ideas that they would enjoy. Rest assured that successful project managers at toy companies have consulted with children at some point.
The right team members:
Have something to contribute
Make an effort to get along with other team members
Abide by the rules and parameters of the project
Ask for help when they need it
The wrong team members:
Show up only when they feel like it
Are not honest about their skill level
Must do everything their own way
Make no effort to work as a team
Think they know everything
It's up to you to carefully pick the right team members for the actual work on the project. You will need to look at your work breakdown structure and determine which positions you want to fill first. For example, if you're planning a wedding, do you hire the caterer or the wedding coordinator first? On some projects, you can have several people come on board at the same time, while on others, team members will join at various intervals as their responsibilities dictate.
A task breakdown sheet will help you assign the right people to the right project tasks. This can work in conjunction with your master plan on your work breakdown structure, which is your overall project blueprint including all tasks organized in a hierarchical chart. To start building your team, you'll have to assess the skills of each potential team member. Do you need a professional publisher with ten years of publishing experience to put out a newsletter for a small business? Probably not.
Project managers seeking team members often have a laundry list of qualifications they're looking for in a person. In reality, only a handful of those qualifications may be necessary to perform the task. Don't make the mistake of searching for Superman when Clark Kent will do.
Besides having a task breakdown sheet of all the tasks that need to be done by each team member, you need to determine how proficient a team member needs to be and how much experience he or she should have to fill a role. It's very important that you don't sell your needs short, but equally important that you don't mistakenly believe that only an expert will do.
If your business depends on building a Web page that will be easy to navigate and can handle a high volume of e-commerce, then your nineteen-year-old nephew may not be your best choice, no matter how skilled he is. On the other hand, to build a small Web site, you need not hire a team known for designing sites for multinational corporations.
Two common mistakes that subvert effective teams are:
Hiring someone who's underqualified because they are:
Charging less money for their services
A friend, family member, friend of a family member, or someone else for whom you are doing a favor
Available now, and you need someone right away
Hiring someone who is overqualified because:
You feel their credentials will impress your stakeholders
You believe that a higher level of expertise is needed when it really isn't
You need to have a fairly good estimate of your actual needs to find the right person. Fill real jobs, not ideal ones.
Assessing talent often relies on an intuitive feeling that the candidate has a keen understanding of what the short-term task and long-term project are all about. Often, a resume or background information will tell you only what the person has done; it won't indicate what else he or she could do using past experience and overall knowledge.
Try to get a feel for the quality of someone's work. Just because a person has done a certain job over the past ten years doesn't mean he or she has done it well. Again, some people excel and some people just get by.
Following are ten things to keep in mind when choosing your team members:
If your expectations are unrealistic, you will waste a great amount of time seeking the perfect person.
If you find someone overqualified, he or she may very likely become bored with the project and lose interest along the way.
Individuals with general experience in an area are often more valuable to the team than someone who specializes in only one specific task. Generalists can also provide help in other areas. Naturally, if the task requires a specialist, it's worth your efforts to find one.
The hot, trendy, young technological genius fresh out of school may know a lot, but does not always have the actual hands-on experience necessary to do the job in the real world. Don't be sold only on the basis of a graduate degree — experience in the workplace is very valuable.
Are team members willing participants or are you hoodwinking them into participating by withholding bonuses or threatening to ground them for a week? Willing team members are more valuable than those who have been coerced, threatened, or cajoled.
Someone with a high profile may also have a big ego. You don't need a prima donna on your team.
Technical or sales skills are great, but can the person get along with others? You need team members with people skills.
Seek out people who have worked on similar projects before, even if it was on a lower level or smaller scale.
Think in broad terms. A person might not be good for one task, but might fit another task perfectly.
Find people who are trustworthy and loyal, which isn't always easy. You'll find that it's important that people have some sense of dedication to the project. You don't want them running off mid-project and leaving you high and dry. Look for some sense of commitment.