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I’m new to project management and it’s not a fulltime job; in other words a programmer turned project manager, still do some coding :-)

I was following this site’s proposal from the beginning, and posted few example questions .

This one question was important to me.

Is the team select skill only gained from experience? Or will there is other ways to select right person for right task?

Normally I will get a resource pool, from graduate interns to highly skilled and experienced programmers. Sometime we have to manage the resource crunch with low experienced persons.

My take on team selection - There will be at least one person who can do the task correctly and within time, success of PM is to find that right person.

I would like to hear from experienced persons, how they select their team. I guess, team selection has been described in every PM book; especially my favourite “Software Project Survival Guide” & “Mythical Man Month”.

  • Thank you all for your valuable response. At moment I'm marking @pawelbrodzinski's as accepted. Other responses are very valuable and I'm expecting more responses from PM gurus in future. – CoderHawk Feb 25 '11 at 7:08
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    My comment would be to stop using the word "resource" to describe fellow human beings. That would shift your perception a bit. – Andy Mar 1 '11 at 18:05
  • @Andy - sorry, I missed your comment. Just made some edits. I couldn't find any synonym for "resource pool" . Please feel free to update. I'm not an advocate of term "resource", its part of our process to use it, thats why I put it in this question. – CoderHawk Mar 11 '11 at 6:10
  • @CoderHawk you can say team member :) – Gopi Jun 29 '15 at 10:48

11 Answers 11

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Well, if you're free to select people who will be working on your project you're pretty lucky.

A good team is a mixture of characters and a mixture of skills and this is general advice you should follow. Unfortunately we often forget about it and fall into one of traps:

  • Look only for rock stars. Definitely we get a bunch of great specialist but probably we also have a few people with strong, and rough, characters which can introduce some conflicts within the team. Usually it's better to have people with different experience both in terms of how much experience they have and where they got it.

  • Look only for characters we like. There are some people who we get on well with. Those who we likely to go for a beer or even become friends. However project is not a party, so don't make it key criteria when you choose people. Good character doesn't get the job done. Skills and engagement do. Even if we don't specifically like someone they can still be very good specialist which could help us vastly in a project.

  • Look for people who cover your weak sides. This is often a mistake of team managers - they don't want to have in the team people better than themselves. Actually they should aim for the opposite. If the manager is the most skilled person in the team it is likely a team of mediocre performers.

  • Choose people only by their skills and not by their characters. There are people who, for whatever reason, totally piss us off. It's not that we don't get on very well. We are annoyed by a sole fact we hear them talking. Well, adding this kind of person to the team is a sure shot way to add some unnecessary problems. Especially if we talk about person who pisses off one of project leaders. It's better to cover skill gap some other way.

You can also see my post on traits which I look for whenever I'm going to work with someone: http://blog.brodzinski.com/2011/02/why-i-want-to-work-with-you.html

  • thanks for the response and your blog is awesome! I have added you in my rescuers list. – CoderHawk Feb 25 '11 at 6:47
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"Loyalty to Project Goals" is much more important than skills, experience, education, or anything else. I would strongly recommend paying attention to this parameter during team building.

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Balance is key. You want your share of highly skilled and seasoned experts on the team, but if you're also a functional manager with the responsibility of developing staff, it's a good idea to mix in some young talent. Generally speaking, I like to hire for attitude and train for skill -- which is not to discount intelligence and competence. Some of my best performers had the least amount of experience and tenure in the company.

Select people who are smarter than you. If you're a good PM, they'll gladly help make you look better (if you're a bad PM, they'll steal your lunch.)

Select people with diverse opinions who can challenge each other in a respectful and professional manner. This will help produce some really creative solutions.

  • speaking of smartness, you are right :) Yes, I worked with some excellent freshers. – CoderHawk Feb 25 '11 at 7:04
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Select your team so all enjoy working with another and learn.

See Joel Spolsky's Command and Conquer and the Herd of Coconuts. He describes why working for one company was boring while working for an other was much better.

For me as a non-manager a good working and learning environment is most important.

  • +1 This is a much overlooked but crucial ingredient. If you can't pick people who enjoy working together, foster team spirit as much as possible. – ashes999 Apr 1 '11 at 20:07
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I agree with Paul in regards to what to look for focusing on 'Is the team select skill only gained from experience?' - it's 99% experience. You can give personality tests, do background checks, ask for work and anything else - but the ability to select a GREAT team comes over time and with the constant introspection of why you selected good and/or bad in the past. NEVER settle on team selection - the TEAM will make or break the project; end of story.

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    you are correct experience is one major factor. Thats why I always consult my seniors before selecting people, which I'm not sure will perform well or not. – CoderHawk Feb 25 '11 at 6:51
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Make sure you find people that you can communicate with, whose opinions you believe you can trust and who are able to grow.

  • trust; yes, but it will not be applicable for people who are new to me. Building and realizing trust make lot of time. – CoderHawk Feb 25 '11 at 6:55
  • @Sandy, trust is definitely built-up over time. But if you find someone at the start who you don't think you could build up trust with, steer clear : ) – Mark Phillips Feb 25 '11 at 16:28
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I think it makes sense to think short and long term if you get to put your team together. You've had the advice to look for a mix of experts and novices. I would also add look out into the future and see who has the team work personality that will benefit you for future projects. Take those people and start mentoring and training them. That said, most of us don't get to pick our teams. So the best skill you can develop is figuring out how to make any team work well together.

  • thanks for your response. I read almost every post in your blog and I think you should continue writing. Yes; we always go for mix of experts, because experts are few in numbers and we release them for other projects after initial and important works. – CoderHawk Feb 25 '11 at 7:00
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Another factor is to determine the life span of your team. A team that has a long lifespan will allow it to grow together, assuming that the team members stay in it for its duration.

If the team has only a short lifespan, time for it to grow is not a luxury you can have. So a successful team for either life span are made up of different team members. You may want to base your team on team members who have work together in the past on successful projects.

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If your organisation does any sort of personality profiling or psychometric testing, you have the opportunity to get a blend of people within your team. Effective teams tend not to be full of clones, and certainly not clones of the leader! I've used Belbin profiling in the past to identify the mix within the team, and then tried to fill the gaps when recruiting new members - and it works! Rather than going into detail here, look it up online (for an overview try http://www.belbin.com/rte.asp?id=8 ) or ask your HR department for help. Technical skills are important too, but the increase in performance from having a well-blended team is phenomenal.

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Besides everything that was mentioned above, in my case I also have to deal with:

  • availability (good people are always involved on more than 1 project, timing is crucial)
  • budget of the project (on high rates we go for the rock stars, on lower rates we help beginner/medium level people gain some experience as well - and ask the advance level people just for guidance or feedback)
  • importance/value of the project (if there's a client that could generate a lot of referrals and everything needs to be top notch, even on a small budget, we bring in the specialists)

And indeed, balance is key.

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One of the biggest criteria in finding a team member is Commitment.

People have various personalities that is impossible if not, unnecessary to control each. Instead, try to find team members with diverse skill set, yet suitable to your project needs. Yet each member must be committed to their goals that you empower them to do.

Hope this helps.

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