What team members are needed at the start?

What team members do I need right at the beginning of a project? Does the entire team come on board up front?
Right after you've been assigned as the project manager and told to get going, you see the immediate need for help. But who do you need right away and what are they going to help you with? The first activity is to develop a baseline definition of the project in a Project Charter, which captures the essence of the objectives and business rationale of the project. You're going to need some help from the executives "sponsoring" the project—the people in power who think this is worth doing. You also need the early involvement of whoever will lead the main development or creative work, someone to represent the project's customers, and any other critical group that will contribute to the projects outcome, even if their main work comes much later in the project. This group of people, commonly referred to as the project core or leadership team, should come together to discuss and develop the foundation of the project.

Following the creation of the Charter and moving into investigation and planning work, this team will collectively help the project manager identify what other resources are needed for the project. The core team members from the key functional groups will be charged with helping get additional people from their groups. Some of those people will come on early during planning to help the team look at alternatives and develop a detailed project plan. Others might not have work to do until later in the project (and in the meantime, the core functional representative on the project team handles all items that affect their department).

Having a complete cross-functional core group at the beginning will pay dividends throughout the project via guidance and perspective from their areas of expertise. The scope will be better understood, the plan will be more accurate, and potential "gotchas" from across the spectrum can be identified and tagged for action.

So to identify who you need at the start, ask yourself what executives and customers will help make sure the project starts with a true understanding of the objectives, and what functional leaders you need involved to make sure the project takes into account everyone's work.

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