I am hoping to establish whether there are technical terms, used in project management, for two different basic approaches to structure and roles; and if so what these terms are.

Sometimes a business or project decides on an ideal structure consisting of various roles. They then appoint individuals to these roles.

Sometimes a business or project looks first at the individuals and then designs roles to fit them.

The first approach may be criticised as puting square pegs in rond holes. The second as placing individuals ahead of the group.

A large company with access to a large labour pool might be more likely to go with the first approach. Design an ideal structure and appoint people to specific roles within it.

A family business or a small group-based project is more likely to assign tasks with regard to the available people, their skills and interests.

Are there terms for these approaches?

  • 2
    Interesting question - here are some ideas: workhuman.com/blog/types-of-organizational-cultures Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 13:14
  • It's not clear how this relates to project management. Without more context about your specific problem, it's also unclear whether there is a specific term of art you can use. Definitional questions outside of project management may be more on topic at English Stack Exchange.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 15:46
  • There is at least one other possibility: a cross-functional self-organizing team where there are no individual roles assigned and the team divides up work for themselves.
    – nvogel
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 19:37
  • @ToddA.Jacobs It seems to me that theories of organisational structure would be part of project management, as it concerns the method in which a project may be staffed. It must be a decision you face as a PM? Most fields have technical terms which may not be understood outside the field. I'm not a project manager but hoped someone here might be able to help. I doubt Englsih Stack Exchange would know technical or scientific terms.
    – davidlol
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 8:05
  • Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 8:22

1 Answer 1


Use Descriptive Phrases to Clarify the Team Structure

You appear to be looking for some project management term of art, but (at least in project management) there's no single word for what you are trying to describe. At best, you might find good, descriptive phrases for how you're choosing to organize your teams. Two reasonably common phrases are:

  1. Fixed teams that are assigned to varying projects.

    This is generally the ideal for most agile frameworks, where a cross-functional team builds cohesion and then continues working together across multiple projects. 100% utilization or I-shaped people are generally anti-patterns for this type of structure.

  2. Per-project teams.

    This is a more traditional approach based on composing teams around specific projects. The main downside is that a group of people aren't inherently a team, so they have to go through various phases of group development such as "forming, storming, norming, and performing" (Tuckman, 1965) for each new project.

    This approach is based on elements of Taylorism that assume that people on teams can be swapped out like parts. It's most often seen in companies with a lot overly-specialized roles, or with dotted-line reporting structures where "team members" are often pulled from multiple organizational units that are generally not cross-functional or have clearly-defined functional missions outside of the project.

    Composing I-shaped teams can be useful when projects are very dissimilar and need completely different skills from project to project. It may also help when internal accounting is used, as people from different functional business units are often billed to different internal buckets. However, per-project team composition inherently carries more process overhead (especially in the beginning) than the reuse of standing, cross-functional teams.

Most project leaders, team members, and stakeholders would understand these phrases and their implied context. If they don't, the descriptions are at least easy to explain. However, unless a company wants to invent its own unique terminology you are unlikely to find a universal definition with the practice or profession of project management, especially if you're looking for a singular adjective or noun that adequately describes these two different types of team structure.

  • 1
    Thanks. I was hoping for a term of art but there's no point me using one that even you guys wouldn't recognise. Like you say, I will use a descriptive phrase. Thnaks again.
    – davidlol
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 19:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.