Critical Tools to Develop Your Project Team!

Develop Project TeamIf you thought getting the right team is the crucial part, you were right. And even more crucial is keeping them motivated, helping them update their skills, collaborate with rest of the team members to best of their ability and strive towards achieving project objectives with positive energy. To develop team is to enormously enhance the odds of project success.

Developing project team is a project management activity that is about creating a conducive project environment where team members will cooperate and collaborate well with each other, improve their skills and competencies and work in unison towards achieving project’s objectives.

A collaborative team can leverage team synergy to achieve seemingly impossible tasks. Such an environment is a great boon for junior members to learn new stuff without impacting project output, an opportunity for the senior members to mentor juniors, and ideal scenario for new members coming into the team to get up to speed on their work.

In one of earlier lessons looked at skills required for a good project manager. Apart from the knowledge and performance, it is the personal skills that decide effectiveness of a project manager. This skillset is essential for Develop Team process.

Being able to manage the team with natural leadership qualities is quite essential for project manager. You would need to ensure that people get a sense of growth and contribute towards project goals. This can be done by helping them identify their strengths and weaknesses, facilitating them to capitalize on their strengths and overcome weaknesses.

Each project manager has her own style of managing people and own approach to develop team. But at the bare bones, the ability to understand people, their needs and preferences and helping them align them to the objectives of the project will ensure success in keeping people motivated.

Team members should be able to trust each other, which leads to collaboration and coordination. Collaboration fuels open communication, which helps the team at consensual decisions and problem solving.

Managing people also requires a set of rules that every member plays by. PMBOK® suggests few tools and techniques that help you manage the team as a leader, and keep them motivated throughout the duration of the project.

Also Read: Click here to learn about 8 powerful soft skills that are a must for project manager!

What are the ingredients? 🙂

Resource management plan suggests ways to recruit, motivate, develop and release team members (apart from of course the physical resources). In addition, it suggests training strategies, feedback mechanism, rewards and recognition plans, performance feedback mechanisms and becomes automatically the primary input to this process.

You need to know the work profiles of every team member, their availability for the project (whether part time or full time) and expectations from them. This information is available in project team assignments. Project schedule gives the complete visibility into important milestones and other information around which training needs can be planned..

Resource calendars will tell you which team member is available during what time so that team building activities or training programs can be arranged. And team charter talks about the rules, values, and operating guidelines that every member of the team should follow.

How do I use these ingredients to get the best dish?

Chances are, all the soft skills of a project manager will be tested in order for her to develop team. And the truth is that this will be a day-to-day exercise for the PM, unlike some of the other processes that are executed at predefined intervals or on-need basis.

Managing people is a every day job, and helping people get better at what they do and march towards their goals can be hugely satisfactory exercise for the PM.

Some of the skills she will put to use to develop team are –

Interpersonal and team skills

…are the soft skills required to deal with peoples’ problems and solve them. Team consists of people with different personalities, and them being able to work together collaboratively makes or breaks the team’s success.

Conflict management and the ability to influence as we’ll see in this post, will be two areas of subtly getting team to align themselves to project’s objectives.

Sometimes the project manager needs to negotiate a solution, resolution, or cooperation from team members to reach consensus that project needs to move forward.


It is very unlikely that you get all the required team members with required competency. Some of the members on the team may need to have advanced skills than initially expected out of their profiles. You may even decide to take in few team members knowing that they do not have some of the required skills.

Hence Training forms an important part of team development strategy. As a project manager you need to make sure that everyone on the team will get necessary training to acquire skills and perform well on the team, by allocating appropriate budget and making time for training in the project schedule.

Not all training effort needs to have direct costs associated with them. Mentoring is a great form of training, some of the senior team members can be paired up with junior members for effective mentoring. This can be a fulfilling exercise for the mentor as well as mentee.

However, there will be indirect costs associated with this approach such as time spent by senior members to teach, support, troubleshoot and provide feedback to their mentees.


Any activity done in a team setting can be team-building activity. This could be weekly status meetings or monthly all-hands meetings. The team needs to have fun working together, and many a times engaging team members in non-work related activities will help build bonding necessary for the team members. Team sports are a great team building activity (inexpensive one too), where the lessons learned on the field can help solve problems at work.

Team work

Team work

There are 5 stages of team development, as proposed by Bruce Tuckman

  • Forming – team members get to know about the project, their individual roles and responsibilities, and each other. Typically some of them are not very open to mix.
  • Storming – members start getting involved with project and discover dependencies on each other. There could be still differences due to lack of understanding and this phase needs to be managed well by the project manager. If issues creep up during this phase, they may last longer during execution phase and impact project performance.
  • Norming – in this stage people start understanding each others’ working habits and begin to trusting each other.
  • Performing – peak performance period for the team. You can expect smooth working and extra-ordinary results.
  • Adjourning – team members start getting released from the project, and a small team is retained to get through remaining work on the project.

Basic team rules

The rules are to be formed so people understand what is acceptable behavior on the team. This could be commencing work at a certain hour in the day, being available for additional hours during product releases, collaboration with quality control team, things like that. It also helps people get more clarity on their individual roles, issue escalation procedures, communication expectations etc.

Colocating project team members

While virtual teams help bring the best of the talent work on a project, it is proven that top quality output from a team is possible only when team members work physically together. The innate adjustments people make to produce more in lesser time, lesser communication overhead, helping each other to motivate and get over hurdles – are some of the benefits colocated team members get.

While it may not be possible to keep all of the team members colocated all of the time, benefits can be drawn when key team members work together at critical phases of the project, such as product definition, design, release to production, etc.

Exam pointer: Co-location (or Colocation) is also called as “tight-matrix”.

Recognition, rewards, appreciation

Your first stop to understand more about this is the human resource management plan. It is critical to make sure that these are substantial compared to the value team members provide to the project. Otherwise rewards can actually demotivate people. Someone who ensured success of a critical project delivery cannot be given just a pizza coupon, for instance.

While desirable behavior (such as working overtime during critical stages of project) should be rewarded in your project team, it should not be misused into making people work more all the time. In such cases team will face the threat of burning themselves out and causing more harm to the project objectives than the benefits gained by rewards.

Another aspect to keep in mind is that rewards should not create win-lose perception (“team member of the month”, “most valuable team member”) in the minds of team members. All members should have equal opportunity to win the reward or certain recognition.

Recognition need not always cost in terms of money. Project manager can do simple things like looking for something good to appreciate in each of the members, and appreciate them publicly. This can have lasting positive impact on the members and motivate them intrinsically.

Individual and team assessment tools

These refer to those tools that help assess individual team members’ knowledge and ability to work with others, manage themselves, take decisions, follow guidelines, think independently, work towards the objectives of the project and so on.

This understanding helps the project manager assess team’s training and mentoring needs, and plan the training calendar and budget accordingly.

Tools such as specific knowledge assessments, structured interviews, attitude surveys and focus group discussions can help.

Outcome of develop team exercise

Team performance assessments

That which is measured, can be improved.

While training, team building activities, and recognition and rewards are good tools, they are only useful when their impact on the project team is measured. Essentially all these tools and techniques have only one goal – make team members want to give their 100% to the project and create a result-oriented culture in the team. If the team is able to deliver on all of project objectives – deliver on time, with great quality delivery, and within budget – then the tools and techniques have achieved their objectives.

Change requests – by now it must be clear to you that pretty much all executing processes might end up finding things to change – to plans, project management documents, and even certain organizational process assets.

In order to develop team effectively, it is also important for the project manager to get a feedback on each of the activities, be it about rewards and recognition, team building, colocation or training. You need to assess their effectiveness and identify whether any of them are necessary at all.

Developing the team all about raising the standards of the team, their productivity, and their motivation to help achieve project objectives, and to manage team the project manager needs to look at few crucial aspects of team dynamics.

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