How do I know what groups I need represented on my team?

How do I know whether I need someone from a particular group on my project team? What determines who I need as a full team member vs. other people who are just working on the project?
So how do you decide who you're going to need on the new project you've been assigned? Perhaps you've got a good idea of the functional groups needed for whatever the main work of the project will be (for example, for a product development project, the engineering group and the people in charge of testing). But who else is needed? And what does it mean to be "on the team"? Thoroughly identifying the necessary team composition for a new project is critical to ensuring that the project gets started on the right foot. Projects often encounter problems down the road because a crucial insight from a particular functional group was not available in the early days when requirements were being defined and expectations for the cost and schedule were set.

A very early step with your team can be to create a Team Roles and Responsibilities List. (This resource has examples of different types of lists and how to use them.) This is not just a piece of paper; it's meant to be a thinking tool that helps the project manager systematically identify core team members from different functional groups, which can bring to light people who have been "forgotten." How often has the team included all the right development people up front, but not the regulatory person? Or the key business sponsor? Or enough time from a person with senior-level expertise in a critical area? Do exactly that kind of questioning with the initial team in a kickoff meeting. Ask, "Who have we forgotten?" Go down a list of functional groups in the company and ask, "Hmmm, do we need someone from legal on this project? From HR?"

The process of documenting roles and responsibilities as the team organization is defined in the above resource and covered further in Project Team Organization and Assignments. The process starts early in Initiation, and the team composition evolves as the project is further defined. What's crucial, though, is to make sure you have a solid core team, with a representative from each functional group that has something to do on this project, as early as possible. Every function needs to understand the project goals, help define the deliverables, help create a plan that is doable to create those deliverables, etc.

Who should be a full or core team member, vs. people who might be considered a project contributor? By project contributor, we simply mean someone who has work to do on the project, but is not in a central role and definitely is not responsible for a particular functional area. Contributors need to stay informed, understand the goals, participate in some (but probably not all) team meetings, and should be involved in planning their work. Core team members do all that and more. They are explicitly responsible for representing their department on this project, speaking for the department's work, getting resources assigned to their part of the schedule, bringing issues to the team, etc. To determine what functions need to be represented like that, simply ask yourself which groups have either significant pieces of work on this project (e.g. Manufacturing on a product development project), or need to provide significant input that will drive big decisions (e.g. Legal on a project that is producing new intellectual property that is key for the company).

Use the list as a continuing sanity check of who's on the project and who else might be needed. Check to ensure that all the team members are included appropriately in meetings, reviews, etc. This process is also meant to help get explicit commitments from team members and their managers on what responsibilities they are signing up for. See our guideline Planning and Scheduling: Assign Resources for thoughts on core team members vs. project contributors, and how the full picture of who's on the project gets fleshed out during Planning.

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