Project Management Institute

Q+A

Skill set

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Q: When you are assembling a project team, what is the number-one skill or quality you seek from members? Why?

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JAMES P. LEWIS,
PRESIDENT,
THE LEWIS INSTITUTE INC.,
VINTON, VA., USA

Clearly, the person must be able to do the work. I believe that is a given, and does not enter into the equation.

As for the quality I look for, it is the ability to work well with others. In fact, it doesn’t matter if a person is absolutely brilliant in applying technical skills. If he or she is constantly at odds with other team members, won’t cooperate or communicate, then those technical skills hardly matter, because the cost to me in lost time due to other team members being upset far outweighs the advantages of the person’s skills.

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ROBERT K. WYSOCKI,
FOUNDER, ENTERPRISE
INFORMATION INSIGHTS
INC., WORCESTER,
MASS., USA

Unquestionably the characteristic that I seek is that the person must be an effective team player who contributes to the balance present on the team. That is simple to say, but it does have profound implications. The tools that most practitioners use to form a team all revolve around the characteristics of the individual. We should be looking at the team as a unit and use our observations on the team to decide whether we have a balanced team comprised of professionals who can work effectively together. Their complementary behaviors include decision-making, thinking styles, conflict-resolution behaviors and problem-solving approaches. Each of these is a multidimensional behavior. If the behaviors of each team member blend together to produce a balanced approach, then the team will be effective. After all, isn’t that what we are really trying to accomplish?

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FLEMMING DALHAUGE,
PRESIDENT,
PMI COPENHAGEN
DENMARK CHAPTER,
HORSHOLM, DENMARK

Achieving excellence in everything we do is one of our key drivers. We must do our utmost to serve all our stakeholders well. Therefore, each team member must have very good communication skills and must be capable of getting the message across to sponsors and clients. We act as one team, and together we are considered one team.

I’m looking for success in working with clients/sponsors, success in team-building, and commitments to clients’ and sponsors’ satisfaction. Therefore, our team charter must be clearly defined. Diversity in the individual approach toward managing communication and responsibilities, such as in the review of schedules and cost, are equally important, but must be managed by the individual who feels empowered to do so.

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DENISE DECARLO,
PRESIDENT,
COLORADO OFFICE,
MINDAVATION INC.,
ENGLEWOOD, COLO., USA

The number one quality I look for in team members is attitude. Too often, I’ve seen people who have the skills but don’t have the right attitude toward the project at hand (they don’t want to be on the project for a variety of reasons). If potential team members are in a positive frame of mind relative to a project or assignment, they can do anything they apply themselves to. If I had to choose between a senior person who really didn’t want to be on my project and a junior person who really wanted to be on my project, I’d take the junior person any day. Now, with this said, the person does need to have some core skills relative to the job at hand.

I can try to instill a positive attitude in team members, but traditionally this initiative or attitude is something that must come from within. I always ask my team members when they join my team, “Why is this project meaningful or important to you?” This information is valuable to me as a leader because it helps me understand what is important to a given team member. Sometimes the responses I get are quite enlightening. I try to leverage that information in a positive way as best I can by providing assignments that align with the person’s needs or objectives for this given project.

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MASSIMO TORRE, PMP,
SENIOR PROJECT
MANAGER, ERICSSON,
ROME, ITALY

Often, in a multi-project environment that adopts the “strong matrix organization,” resources are assigned to the project by “resource owners”—that’s the line or functional managers. This is due mainly to the following simple rule: Project managers are responsible for the what and the when, while line managers are responsible for the who and the how. So, project managers often have very little to do with choosing members of their team, even if, in pivotal projects, they try.

However, the first skill I’d like to have from project members is technical ability. The second one (sometimes it even could be the first) is tenacity. Thomas Alva Edison used to say, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”

Thus, competency and tenacity. Not that other qualities, such as communication skills and business perception, are not important. But one of the most challenging roles of the project manager is just to fill in gaps by helping other team members. As stated by Galileo Galilei, “You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him find it within himself.”

Last but not least: If you’re having trouble deciding between two people, pay attention to all their qualities and then remember the ancient Roman saying: “In medio stat virtus” [In the middle lies virtue].

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KEN DELCOL, CHAIRMAN,
PMI NEW PRODUCT
DEVELOPMENT SPECIFIC
INTEREST GROUP, AND
DIRECTOR OF PROJECT
MANAGEMENT, MDS
SCIEX, CONCORD,
ONTARIO, CANADA

When assembling a team we look for people with the right apti-tudes—those with the right frame of mind. Knowing the tools is no longer enough.

We need people who collaborate, lead, solve problems effectively and proactively communicate, and achieve results in ways that show innovation, flexibility, professionalism and integrity. Our team members must do all these things because they see the big picture: They have a broad perspective, are motivated and want to learn and grow.

Success will require these aptitudes and the knowledge and background necessary for the position. Although we will gladly train the right people in our tools, technology, and processes, we will not compromise on these qualities when looking for new employees.

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GREG INDELICATO, PMP,
SENIOR PROGRAM
MANAGER, WIRELESS
FACILITIES INC.,
RICHARDSON, TEXAS, USA

When assembling a project team, the number-one quality I look for is focused drive. Each team member brings some level of technical skill and presumably interpersonal skills, however, what transforms a project group into a high-performance team is the personal drive in each member. This is not ambition, but rather a drive to support and accomplish the objectives and vision of the project.

The personal passion, or “fire in one’s belly,” is what enables teams to fully utilize the expected parameters of the project, such as effective communications, attention to quality and timely achievement of results. Team members that have this focused drive develop a sense of personal responsibility for the successful outcome of the engagement. They view the tasks more positively as they are “masters of their own destiny.”

There is also a stronger sense of project loyalty, which is important as the project delays due to snags or when it approaches closure. In both cases, focused drive may be what it takes to get the job done.

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JEFF WERNER, PMP,
DIRECTOR OF PROJECT
SCHEDULING, WYNDHAM
INTERNATIONAL, DESIGN
& CONSTRUCTION
DEPARTMENT, CARROLLTON,
TEXAS, USA

The most important skill or quality we look for is the ability to meet customer requirements. If the customer is not satisfied the project is considered a failure. Our approach is to plan, direct and implement project quality teams by focusing on understanding customer expectations.

Senior management must evaluate individual skills and knowledge to ensure everyone on the project will meet these standards. Subcontractors and vendors who work as part of the team must be qualified for the same required skills, knowledge and abilities.

The project manager is the focal point for ensuring all quality functions are established and implemented during the life of the project. Senior management supports the project manager with resources needed to complete the project and directing activities that support the project.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM NETWORK | APRIL 2003 | www.pmi.org

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