Drafting Your Perfect Project Team

10 October

It is that time of year when our attention turns back to football. College and pros are back in full-force, and competing for our attention seemingly all week long, it is also the time when people begin to think how the teams will do based upon the talent they acquired in the off season, either through recruiting or via the draft. Will this or that player be the key to success and help our team win it all? Will they not be able to do the job expected, or have a greater learning curve than anticipated? Maybe success from the past won’t translate to the present; maybe a different mix of people would make for a better team or generate more success. Interesting questions that play out over the course of a season (or project).

Now is also the time when fantasy football really takes hold. When fantasy owners look to create their teams and show how successful they can be as managers in their respective leagues. They look to develop strategies, implement plans, identify risks, manage who is available on any given week, work within a budget, around a schedule, seeking to put the best talent together to achieve success. In other words get the best team (available) to get the job done. Sounds a lot like managing a project to me.

One of the greatest stumbling blocks we have seen throughout organizations in creating a culture of success and executing projects effectively is due to resource challenges. The question here is – how do we get the right people, working on the right things, for the amount of time we need them, while they are trying to do their-day-to-day jobs, and keep our business running? Not easy – would be an understatement. In many cases, resources are not interchangeable, have differing skills, different demands on their schedules, and just may not be available to support the work needing to be done. Also a lot like projects.

What if we tried this same “draft” formula in developing our project teams? It may not be exactly the same but we can draw a number of parallels, and by trying to follow them continually work to build our most effective teams, and continually develop our bench strength We want our project teams to be afforded the same opportunity for success, and chances are cannot afford to let them flounder or fail

Here are some thoughts to consider in applying this methodology:

  • Understand who your “A” Team actually is – Who are the resources you always want to go to and bring the greatest level of expertise. Are they always in demand? What are their day-to-day activities? How much time can they support strategic projects? If you pulled them out of your business to support project work would the impact be manageable or highly detrimental? Depending on how you answer these questions will determine if they area core nucleolus, you can build around, or need to augment.
  • Get to know your back-ups – Who else on the team may be able to get in, or even belongs in the game. What is their skill-set, and how much project expertise would actually be lost if they were on the team? Is this project a good learning opportunity and would it make the organization better in the long run? Again your answers would influence the approach.
  • Should we address any gaps now – Is there a crucial skill-set we need to address in the near term, or something that has caused challenges to our team in the past? Should we look for talent in the market (to join the team), or can we get a free agent (consulting or contract partner) to fill this need as it arises? Are we willing to struggle through based upon what we know today and be “good” enough?
  • Get your coaching team involved in the game plan – Bring in your PM, Subject Matter Experts and other key contributors early in the planning stages. Review the scope of work required to identify what must be done, resources required and available to do the work and determine realistic and achievable timeframes. Determine other factors or initiatives that may impact your game plan. Remember this should be real world, so get the proper line-up to support the project.
  • Make sure the players understand and can execute their role – If the players are unclear of their assignments, can’t support their role expectations (based upon other priorities, time constraints, lack of skills, etc.), or see potential conflicts with the timing or level of activity required, let them express it prior to project start. Easier to adjust up front then after the fact.
  • Execute your plan and adjust at halftime (if needed) – Monitor activity and performance. Are people delivering on time and with the quality expected? Are they causing bottlenecks for others, in the project? Things may slip from time-to-time but if it is a consistent issue, it needs to be addressed. Resources might be added, scope reduced, and in the extreme case a resource might be replaced altogether. Evaluate at various periods during the project to drive to the right balance.
  • Involve your scout team, if possible – If you have the opportunity, allow your back-up to monitor or participate in the process. They may be able to assist in expediting the work, and would surely benefit from the learning experience, building depth in your organization.
  • After the game evaluate the team performance and provide practice pointers – Just as we do throughout the project, review the overall performance of the project team through lessons learned, and even individual performance reviews, such as you might use in your organizations. Recognize strengths and opportunities for growth. Then consider all of this as you review your roster and projects in the future.

Project teams, as with any other good team, need to be evaluated prior to, during and after their “games”. There will always be a mix of superstars and role players who work to get the job done. It is our jobs as owners, executives, managers and PMs in our businesses to seek out the best available mix of talent to insure we are positioned for the greatest possible success. We need to provide the same level of engagement and passion in these activities as we do in supporting our sporting teams or managing in our leagues. After all, at the end of the day, if our sporting team loses it is annoying, but if our project teams lose we may not be able to get back in the game and it truly hurts. Draft well, good luck and now go win that game!

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