Project Organization

Who do we need to get the job done and how do we get the best out of the team? There is no such single factor contributing to project innovation and – productivity as the people in our project organization. Invest in people – get the right people on board, establish a high-performance team, maintain motivation and commitment throughout the project – The extra attention, effort, and resources invested into the project organization will pay off.

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Get the right people on board – The positive effects of having the right people on board cannot be overemphasized. Invest all you can in the important task of attracting the right people to the project.  Keep in mind the famous study showing a 1:10 ratio between the worst and best performers (Ref 1). Pay special attention to the key roles like project manager, team leads, architects, lead developers, and lead testers. Watch out for compromises also when there is time pressure to get the project organization staffed. People are quickly becoming “irreplaceable” in projects and the cost of having the wrong people is high in terms of the cascading effects; poor quality, delays, extra workload, and impact on team morale.

Ensure right staffingMake sure to get the right profiles and to have the right staffing throughout the project. It is a puzzle to define what profiles will be needed at what time. Timing is important – it can be counterproductive to be overstaffed too early. When the need is there must however be sufficient staffing. Be prepared when you enter the “staffing battle” to fight for getting and keeping the resources needed to execute.

Define the organizational structure – The traditional organizational chart is a practical way to provide a quick overview of how the project is organized, to define who is inside and outside of the project organization, to define how team members belong to the project, and to define roles and responsibilities. 

Size matters – and big is not beautiful – Small project organizations are more efficient than big project organizations. Teams with sizes from 5-12 seem to be most efficient.  when projects turn large the need for resources to manage, monitor and coordinate seems to be ever-growing. Everything cannot be built by small teams so when things are becoming big special attention must be paid to how to establish and remain a big productive project organization

Establish and maintain a high-performance team Get the best out of the team and get the best out of each team member.  The high-performance team is not something that can just be “bought” it must evolve through human interaction. There are however many things that can be done to promote the formation of a high-performance team. Some general key factors include: Sell the vision, set clear achievable goals, involve the team actively in planning and give the team responsibility, address individual preferences, recognize the contribution, celebrate results and communicate openly, evaluate results and improve iteratively. You can never invest too much in the team and it often happens that too little is invested. Make a difference by putting team activities on the plan when the project is started and throughout the project.

Manage the virtual team – More and more activities are taking place with teams and people located in different locations working as virtual teams. It requires an extra effort to establish and maintain the virtual team. Ensure the technical prerequisites are in place so the team can work efficiently incl. virtual meeting equipment and tools for knowledge sharing. Invest extra in building relations, and pay extra attention to team communication incl. regular well planned meetings.

Make projects people friendly? – Projects can be a fantastic playground with an option to be innovative, learn new skills, be part of great teamwork but they can also be stressful, exhaustive, and never-ending marathons. Make it an objective to make projects people friendly because it creates better results and because it increases life quality for all of us that spend a huge part of our lives in projects. Find the sustainable high pace that is producing results without draining people, contribute to a positive working climate, be supportive, promote open communication and be ready to learn and adapt.


Ref 1:

Researchers have found 10-fold differences in productivity and quality between different programmers with the same levels of experience and also between different teams working within the same industries.

Define project organization
Create staffing and allocation plan
Staffing of key roles
Create organizational chart
Define roles and responsibilities
Define project processes
Share project organization with stakeholders and team
Conduct kick-off
Establish a high-performance team
Promote factors that form a high-performance team
Create settings that promote productivity
Ensure 1:1 dialogue with team members
Form new team
Establish team communication plan
Establish team goals
Establish team processes
Create plan for virtual collaboration
Maintain project organization
Assess project organization and need for changes
Revisit activities for establishing the organization
Update role descriptions
Update staffing overview
Re-align project organization with team and stakeholders
Conduct "kick-on"
Maintain high-performance team
Assess team performance
Revisit activities for forming the high-performance team
Conduct meetings and social arrangements
Ensure communication
Celebrate success
Create plan for over-loaded project team
Long project: Define near-term goals
Early Involvement of operational team
Establish a task force
Vendor involvement
Teamwork blocked by team members on multiple locations

Problem: Project team members cannot meet on a regular basis and solve things as they arise

Consequence: Team members may not be aligned about the work in the project and may not be able to utilize each other. This barrier for high performance may impact both time, budget and product value

Lack of communication to project team

Problem: Project team members lack information about overall vision, important decisions, relevant news and they are not receiving information when they need it.

Consequence: One of the key elements that form a high performing team is missing and the project team members may need information required to perform their job efficiently.

Lack of team member motivation

Problem: Team members lack motivation the motivation to deliver their best

Consequence: Severe risk that the project cannot deliver expected results

Multiple barriers for high performance team

Problem: There are multiple barriers preventing formation of a high performance team

Consequence: It will not be possible to get the best potential out of the team

One or more key roles are not staffed with the right profile

Problem: A vital part of the project organization is not in place

Consequence: Severe risk that project cannot deliver expected results

Insufficient staffing

Problem: The project is not sufficiently staffed for planned activities

Consequence: Progress will be negatively impacted and team can become overloaded

Unclear roles and responsibilities

Problem: Team members find it difficult to understand, navigate and produce results in the organizational structure due to unclear responsibilities, heavy procedures or lack of common priorities or collaboration between teams.

Consequence: The organizational structure is itself consuming time from the project team and preventing high-performance.