A time and a place



Assemble a successful team by finding the right people at the right time.



A great team is more than the sum of its parts. However creating a great dynamic and a sense of cohesion doesn’t happen by accident. Project staffing requires careful attention to both experience and people skills.

Most organizations use a formal application and interview process when selecting project team members. At some organizations, teams are staffed based largely on availability or the need to move practitioners forward in their career. At others, individual styles, interests and characteristics are carefully considered to ensure team cohesiveness. No matter how it’s done, creating an ace team comes down to finding people with the right skills and complementary personalities—at the right time.

Whether staffing is done by a portfolio manager, an executive or a project management office (PMO) director, he or she must understand the characteristics of the project and the desired results. Note any special project parameters, like language and cataloging initial assignments. If staffing more than one project at a time, this step will also provide insight into overlapping skills and responsibilities.

Project leads often overstaff in the belief that more is better. To avoid this, develop a “roles and responsibilities” matrix to determine the skills needed to accomplish the desired project results. This will also clarify the number of team members required.

The next step is to find qualified individuals to fill the slots. These employees may be previous or current teammates. Your organization may have a database or tool that allows employees to apply for project openings. Look at résumés, CVs and performance appraisals, if possible. Have discussions with former managers and team members. Compare candidates to your inventory of assignment requirements and team dynamics.

Some may feel that picking team members based on documented history and performance is the easiest approach. While it works, this method does not guarantee a cohesive team. Instead, consider selecting the project manager first (if you are not the lead), then finding team members who can complement his or her style. Select individuals with the right abilities and the personality for the project. Does this initiative require a lot of difficult client interaction? Will the team need to keep calm under fire, with project requirements constantly in flux? Are there ambiguities to the project specs that would be best suited to an investigative sort? The better you know the project, the better you can find the personality traits that will suit it and build a stronger team.

Of course, sometimes you have to staff a project not with the perfect fit but instead with the person who happens to be between assignments. If you find yourself facing this proposition, remember that having the proper analysis and mapping can help you negotiate for what you need.

Project performance is more than meeting schedules and costs: It is achieving the results by leveraging the team’s strengths, weaknesses, success and failures. Pairing the right team members with the right projects equals strong team performance. If done effectively, staffing can improve the project results and team performance. PM


Deborah (Debi) A. Dell, PMP, is the manager of the Project Management Center of Excellence at IBM, a PMI Global Executive Council member. She works from her home in Delray Beach, Florida, USA.




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