Project Management Team: Structure & Roles

Instructor: Joshua Stegmeyer
This lesson discusses the basic principles of project team organization, describing in detail the good, bad, and the ugly of the commonly used core team structure.

Order from Chaos

You've been given a new project which, frankly, doesn't have a good reputation. This will be a test of your skills as a project manager to bring it back on track. When you sit down to your first meeting, you notice that there are over thirty attendees, the team members openly bicker, decisions are never quite made, and even the agenda itself seems to be under heated debate. Within ten minutes you are able to prioritize your energy for the next two weeks. First thing's first: this project needs a high-functioning project team.

Principles of Organization

Every project and every organization will have different standards for a what should make a project team. In some companies and situations, you'll find that the team is already set by convention, and in others it'll be by the complete discretion of the project manager. There are, however, a few basic principles that follow true to nearly every project team.

Most projects, whether it is named such or not, have a core team. A core team is a group of no more than eight individuals who represent all functions within the organization. Core team members are expected to coordinate with individuals in other areas of the organization, or the extended team, as needed and to represent their needs. These relationships are usually drawn along functional lines: the lead engineer on a development project may be responsible for coordinating with the verification team or regional regulatory affairs may be funneled through a global lead.

A project core team can be thought of as a council in which each member represents a larger body.

A more fanciful analogy might be that the core team is like a UN council; each member is an ambassador of their functions. They have proxy to make decisions in the moment but are constantly coordinating with their larger countries to make sure their decisions are aligned.

Advantages of a Core Team

Core teams simplify larger organizations into a single unit that is actually manageable by a project manager. Team dynamics become something that can be monitored and improved, dialogues are complete with everyone represented, and decisions can be reached quickly within the group. Over time, a core team will begin to develop close relationships with one another and build mutual respect.

Disadvantages of a Core Team

No system is perfect; it's important to know what your challenges are as you form a core team. The largest difficulty is that core teams often place individuals in a leadership position when they do not want to be; someone who only wants to do design work suddenly has to have his own meetings to coordinate with other groups. Here is where your value as a project manager comes in: it is wise to provide coaching as needed to help these individuals develop their own leadership in this role.

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