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  • Writer's pictureDr. Denis Petersen, PMP, ACMP

Building Project Teams - Part 1

Updated: Mar 14

When project managers have the opportunity to assemble a team, they should plan their identification, acquisition, and assignment strategies. This article provides insights into things they should consider and actions they can take to effectively organize their teams.  

Woman leading a project team


Organizing the Team


Petersen Training is an Authorized Training Partner for the Project Management Institute (PMI®); some of this content is based on concepts in the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) and can be helpful for those who are preparing for a PMI® certification. 

1. Identifying Team Members


When identifying team members who can help meet project needs, project managers must first identify the competencies required for team success.  Certain deliverables or features required by a customer may necessitate specific skill sets on the team. Project managers may need to do a gap analysis to determine if specific competencies are available to the team already, or if the team is lacking in some skill areas. If current team members have the required competencies, they should not need to add further team members. However, when adding team members, project managers must make decisions based on information that will impact team performance and project goals, such as:


  • Rates and costs

  • Availability of resources

  • Breadth of experience

  • Team fit


When considering team fit, project managers and current team members can implement methods—that work for them—to identify those who will be a good fit for their teams. The first step to finding the right people is for current team members to identify the qualities they desire in new team members. Then, during interviews and assessments, they can determine whether a potential team member has the desired qualities. The goal is to build a team composed of talented individuals who can work synergistically.


2. Acquiring Team Members

Project managers may need to use different sources to acquire resources and build a team. They may look at internal resources, those who are direct reports, or those who may work in other departments. People in different departments may not work directly with or for the project manager, but they have loyalty to the company and can often add specific functional expertise to the team.

Lists of internal and external resources

They may also look for external resources, such as those they might access through a contract. Contract resources may not have loyalty to the company, but they operate under a legal agreement and typically want to perform well to secure future business for their company. These resources may also bring skills to the team that are not available in-house.

The use of in-house resources typically requires effective coordination. Project managers must follow company or organization processes, rules, and guidelines for requesting, scheduling, and using in-house human resources – this is especially true if a team is using cross-functional resources from multiple departments.

Matrix organization chart highlighting cross functional team members

The use of contract resources requires the establishment of a legal agreement; this usually takes time, effort, and legal and procurement support. For example, project managers typically develop scope and requirements documentation, like a Statement of Work, to support Request for Proposal (RFP) processes. Then, they work with legal and procurement to issue an RFP, advertise the opportunity, receive and evaluate proposals, negotiate terms and conditions, and sign contracts. This can be a lot of work to staff a project team—and project managers must understand the cost and time implications of this effort. 

At times, project managers may not have access to local in-house, or contract resources.  Because of this restriction, many industries are developing relationships with business units, vendors, and partners across the globe to assist in resourcing projects. There may be many skilled people who are available to work on a project virtually (from their home or a remote office). In these cases, a project manager may be able to meet project staffing requirements by forming a virtual team.

No matter how they staff their teams, project managers must meet all organizational rules, procurement processes, and legal requirements associated with acquiring human resources. 

3. Assigning Resources

Upon proper acquisition, new team members must understand their responsibilities. For predictive projects, the team may lay out these responsibilities by assigning them to tasks or Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) elements in a project schedule. The following graphic shows an example of assigning specific resources to activities (or tasks) and defining specific effort and timing for the work:

Resource loaded schedule showing activities, level of effort, and resource assignments

For agile projects, self-organizing teams work together to assign responsibilities for work and tasks for each iteration or sprint – so responsibilities may change more frequently.

Resource calendars come into play when a team is trying to schedule human resources. These calendars provide information about working time, non-working time, holidays, time off, and time away from the project (to work on other projects). This information is critical when trying to determine who will be available at specific times to complete project work.  Resource calendars are all about availability.

4. Documenting Resource Plans

Resource identification, acquisition, and assignment results should be documented in a Resource Management Plan and a resource-loaded schedule. This plan should include guidance for the team about roles, responsibilities, authorities, and competencies of team members. It may also include helpful tools like an organizational chart, a training plan, and strategies for how a team will work together. This is a key planning output that becomes part of the Project Management Plan. After they have made formal assignments, project managers can communicate this information, monitor its implementation, and make adjustments as needed.

Part 2 of this article identifies how project managers can use this information to lead teams and build synergy.



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