Experience tells us that successful projects result from effective project teams.
Although there are numerous established project management methodologies (some industry specific, others with wider applications), the most critical component of a project are the individuals driving it to a successful conclusion.
Whilst project management qualifications can be useful for many project scenarios (for example, complex IT projects or property development projects), sometimes a simplified approach can be the most effective.
So what individuals are required to create an effective project team? Well, for the purpose of this blog, we will avoid any technical jargon, and go back to basics which are applicable to almost all project scenarios.
Projects naturally evolve. For the most part, it’s important not to get too burdened with getting it right from the start, but letting progression take its natural course. We find that starting with a small project team helps. Enlist the individuals with the key expertise you require, and over time you can modify the team as you reach project milestones or face certain challenges.
You also want to avoid having too much overlap in roles and responsibilities. This is to ensure the project team is able to collaborate and communicate without conflict. Dividing responsibilities between the key individuals ensures that positions are clearly defined, and that interests remain aligned.
All projects have a Sponsor. This is usually the individual or organisation who identifies a want or need, and provides the financial investment required to satisfy it. The Sponsor can often have the least time or resources to invest in the project due to the multitude of needs and wants within business management, and therefore places their trust in others to help reach their business objectives.
Projects can be either self-identified or directed by another. Where self-identified, the Innovator may also be the Sponsor. Otherwise, where directed by another, the Innovator is the one who proposes a solution to satisfy the Sponsor’s needs. In respect of the project team, the Innovator has an equal interest as the Sponsor in reaching the project outcomes, and should take the role of project manager. The Innovator should be the individual most motivated to drive the projects forwards, and that the Sponsor is reliant on this to ensure their needs are effectively met.
Once the Innovator has identified the basis of a solution, they should enlist the support of the Expert or group of Experts. The Expert is the one familiar with the project subject matter, and can provide the technical support and project know-how required to get the detail right. Mutual trust is the foundation between the Innovator and Expert – and these two individuals are the ones who ensure positive communication to the Sponsor, depending on the feedback method agreed between them.
The Innovator and Expert(s) should be supported by an Associate or group of Associates. Most projects have a significant amount of grunt work involved, and this is where the Associate comes in. Use of Associates will help free up resources and reduce project operating costs. Whilst the Expert is familiar with the subject matter, all projects have an element of unknown and areas which are specific to the Sponsor's requirements. The Associate doesn’t necessarily have to be overly familiar with the details of the project, but should be accessible to the Innovator and Expert to provide ad hoc project support. Clearly setting out their role and reporting matrix is key to making effective use of their support. Whilst a substantial amount of their time will be dedicated to supporting the Expert, it is the Innovator who should be directing their role and ensuring that any allocated tasks are being satisfied.
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