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How to Pick a Project Team

Tech skills are only the beginning.

By Kathleen Melymuka
April 12, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - When Bill Hagerup was a novice project manager, he attended a meeting in which managers were picking people for upcoming projects. He let the other project managers step all over him and ended up with the leftovers. "The project didn't go well, and I vowed I would never let that happen again," he says.
Next time, he was prepared. Well before the meeting, Hagerup approached each of the top-skilled people and sold them on the project, so their bosses agreed to let them go. "I got all the people I wanted," he says. "And it turned out to be a terrible project."
He had picked people for their technical skills and ended up with a team of prima donnas. "They couldn't work together," explains Hagerup, who is now a project management specialist at Ouellette & Associates Inc., a consulting firm in Bedford, N.H.
A great project team requires more than technical skills. It takes the right mix of "soft" skills, personalities and attitudes to gel and achieve results. Here are some tips from project managers about whom you need on your team and how to get them.
Fewer is Better
After the fifth member, a project team's effectiveness is inversely proportional to its mass, says Catherine Tomczyk, a project manager at First Data Corp. in Greenwood Village, Colo. But affected departments often want representatives on a team regardless of whether they have any value to add. The result is bloated teams with uneven skills, knowledge and commitment levels, and getting them on the same page wastes time and energy, Tomczyk says.
Her best teams have had only four people. Each person understood the project's direction and his role, and they all pulled together. This type of team can work two to three times faster than an overstuffed one, Tomczyk estimates.
Attitude Counts

How to Pick a Project Team
Image Credit: David Clark
Look for people with positive attitudes and behaviors, says Sue Young, CEO of ANDA Consulting, a project management consulting firm in Williston, Vt. People with a good work ethic who are upbeat, respectful of others and continually learning will help lift the team's spirit, she says. Conversely, one cynic can spoil the entire team's outlook.
If you have to choose between specific skills and attitude, go for attitude. "Experience is very important," says Jeff Anderson, a project manager at First Data, "but I can override experience for a person with a strong work ethic that I can count on."
Diversity Lowers Risk
"The riskier the project, the more diversity you need in the team," says Johanna Rothman, president of Rothman Consulting Group Inc. in Arlington, Mass.,

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