Building Better Project Teams


October 1999

Building Better Project Teams


In “A Role by Any other Name: The Availability of Skills in Project Teams,” (Performance Improvement, Vol. 38, No. 7, August 1999), Duane Degler confronts the challenges facing project teams and the way teams are constructed.

By exploring the premise that the roles traditionally associated with project teams are increasingly inadequate as a description of the skills required for success, Degler suggests that we shift the way we look at and structure our project teams and change the focus of skills and responsibilities. He proposes that we:

  • Build teams around skill sets rather than roles. Emphasize the skills required to achieve specific outcomes and the allocation of direct responsibility for those outcomes based on the skills applied.
  • Reduce teams to a core group of skilled participants. Identify what formal and informal skills are necessary to get the job done. Change the size and scope of the team over time as different skills sets are needed.
  • Identify timely and efficient opportunities for SME involvement.
  • Identify opportunities for organizational communication. Representatives and involvement from all parts of the organization are required to get the job accepted.

Although Degler is not able to offer us a simple panacea for resolving project team performance and communication, he does leave us with several thoughts to help move project team development forward:

  • Develop and agree on more complete definitions of project activities that encompass the performance information needs of the whole team.
  • Develop techniques that identify formal and informal individual skill sets rather than roles.
  • Further articulate the linguistic and interpersonal communication issues that are raised by the increasing harmonization of skills.
  • Define simple techniques for greater integration of communication theory into practical team building.
  • Identify knowledge-sharing and understanding-sharing tools and techniques that are flexible enough to be implemented on a project basis.

Finally, Degler maintains that although we should not disregard the important skills and insights that we currently think of as belonging to the performance support role, we should not add another person to the team for the sole purpose of representing these skills when they are already present. CIDMIconNewsletter