Projects, no matter the size and scope, are complex. If they weren’t, they might as well just be tasks on a to-do list. Luckily, projects are also a group effort—for every project, there is a project team working together to make deliverables a reality.
How do these teams come together? Not on their own! There are many ways to form project teams and many factors to take into account.
What Is a Project Team?
A project team is composed of individuals that are working together towards a common goal. This can include executives, a project manager, team leaders from different departments and team members. How this team operates depends on how it’s organized, which can take the form of different project organizational structures.
Within a typical project team structure, projects are headed by the project manager, though they also can be led by an executive that the project manager reports to. The key characteristic of this type of team is that everyone reports to the project manager or another individual at the top of the chain of command.
The project manager often manages the project, the team and all the related tasks in project management software. Ideally, project management software allows for team collaboration as well as planning, so teams can be at their best, like with ProjectManager.
What is the Project Team Structure?
A project team structure is a type of project organizational structure in which the project is led by one project manager with total control of the entire project. The project manager creates a project plan and schedule, assembles a team, assigns tasks and responsibilities and oversees the project every step of the way. For this reason, we characterize this type of structure as “projectized” because the structure of the team is driven by the demands of the individual project.
Imagine a food chain. The project manager is at the top, and various team members make up the different levels. The second tier of the “food chain” is led by a handful of leaders, each with their own focus (head of marketing, head of product, head of sales, etc.).
Below each leader, the next tier is made of a group of team members. For example, the tier below a marketing leader might be made of a content writer, an editor, an email manager, etc. These team members report to their respective leaders, and the leaders report to the project manager at the top.
How to Assemble a Project Team
Assembling a project team is just as much about selecting team members as it is fleshing out the project organizational structure. Regardless of the organizational structure you choose, this entails setting up rules and procedures, defining expectations and establishing communication. If these things aren’t clearly defined before the project begins, they’ll inevitably lead to trouble down the road.
Related: Free Team Charter Template
Three Key Steps to Create a Project Team
As we said, assembling a project team will look different depending on the project and organizational structure. With that in mind, here are a few universally helpful details to focus on when putting together your team.
- Consider Interdepartmental Needs: Lots of projects require multiple departments to work together to achieve deliverables. Within the project team structure, each involved department should be headed by a leader who manages a team of individuals in their department. So, before getting into the nitty-gritty of assembling the team, decide which departments to involve and who will lead them.
- Create Communication Practices: Because the project team structure does involve so many tiers of individuals, it’s extremely important to keep communication fluid. Otherwise, the team will begin to feel like multiple, independent departments working toward different goals. The best way to prevent this from happening is by setting a cadence for meetings, requiring status reports, scheduling interdepartmental collaboration time and any number of other ideas.
- Clearly Define Expectations: The best way to set communication up for success and keep the entire project running smoothly is by clearly defining expectations. The most successful projects are led by project managers who lay down ground rules and define expectations from the get-go. These rules can also include clear boundaries, what steps to take if something goes wrong and more. We recommend going so far as to put these things in writing and keeping the document somewhere the whole team can reference.
How to Map Team Member Skills for Assignments
Now that you’ve laid the foundation of your project team structure and assembled the team, it’s time to start giving assignments. But, before you do so, it’s extremely advantageous to assess who has the skills to best take on certain assignments. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and playing to a team member’s strengths can majorly improve results.
In order to learn which team members are the best fit for assignments, a project manager or team leader needs to take stock of everyone’s experience and specialties. This is done by creating a skills matrix.
What Is a Skills Matrix?
A skills matrix is a table used to quantify and illustrate each team member’s skills, experience and interest level. The project manager and/or team leader must first gauge a team member’s interest in a certain assignment. This interest is then compared to their skills. Then, this comparison is added to a table comparing the skills and interests of all team members.
To make an accurate matrix, you must create a scale to “score” individuals. When these scores are all displayed in one table, it is simpler to make objective decisions that are best for the project. It is also an excellent opportunity to take note of an individual’s interests vs. their experience, and perhaps give them more opportunities in the future.
Benefits of a Project Team Structure
When a project team is structured in a top-down way, everyone knows exactly who to report to, whether it be to ask questions, get approval, present results or anything else. There is zero confusion on which team members to collaborate with.
Another benefit of a project team structure is that it is entirely driven by the needs of the project. Different projects have different demands. This type of organizational structure is custom-tailored to these demands. Now, that isn’t to say a project team structure is always the right choice. There are potential pitfalls to be aware of.
Pitfalls of a Project Team Structure
Above we discussed how project team structures are determined by the needs of the specific project. While this can be a great thing, it can also result in waste. How? At the beginning of each new project, a new project team structure must be created, rather than reusing a structure from previous projects.
Another pitfall to be aware of is the potential for the entire team to become disjointed. If the project manager isn’t careful, communication between leaders can fall apart. When this happens, collaboration comes to a screeching halt, and team members start stepping on each other’s toes.
How to Improve Team Collaboration
Improving team collaboration is easier said than done, and assuming that perfect collaboration happens all on its own is a big mistake. Successful team collaboration is the culmination of thoughtful strategies and adapting to challenges. If you’re asking yourself where to start, consider these three tips.
- Choose the Right Type of Project Organizational Structure: We’ve talked about the inner workings and benefits of a project team structure, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for every team or project. In fact, if collaboration becomes a big issue, it may be time to take a step back and consider restructuring. There is no “golden” organizational structure that works perfectly, one hundred percent of the time.
- Create a Communication Plan: One of the first steps toward improving collaboration is getting everyone on the same page. Within a project team structure, this means making sure different teams all have the same information to work with and know exactly how to communicate with one another to ask questions, express ideas, etc. When this is the case, and the project is made up of various teams and team leaders, a plan for communication lets everyone know exactly how to work together.
- Choose Smart Team Management Solutions: Teams are growing every day, but that doesn’t mean we all go to the same office. Team management tools were created to empower the modern team—made up of individuals in different departments, or even different time zones. Because of this evolution, we need technology that makes collaboration and communication easier than ever. Team management tools create a digital space for everyone to collaborate and see what others are working on.
ProjectManager Makes your Project Team Better
ProjectManager offers the smartest team management solutions around, connecting everyone on the team, improving collaboration and cutting down on confusion. Every aspect of our project management software was built with project teams in mind, and we’ve made it easy to collaborate on any and everything you need, like tasks, Gantt charts and more.
Need to know the right person to ask a question? Use the Team page to see what everyone on your team is working on and who might have the answer. And when you’re building a new team for a project, see a roster or individuals broken down into departments or filter individuals by certain skills.
When you’ve built your “dream team,” communicate via comments and tags, rather than long, messy email chains. When you’re mentioned in a comment, you’ll receive a notification and an email so you never miss a question or update.
ProjectManager is the perfect tool for in-office or distributed teams. There are features that can take your project from planning to putting together a project team, to execution, monitoring and reporting. See for yourself how our software can help you manage and support your virtual teams today by trying ProjectManager for free.