The Social Nature of Project Delivery

I’ve mentioned the social skills needed to succeed in project delivery, but I wanted to put a graphic together that explains why.  The core project team’s relationship to the extended team is the key reason.  It looks something like this:

Though there are exceptions, let’s define the core team as resources who are:

  • Dedicated to only that project, or
  • Perform standard project delivery roles (PM, BA, PC) on a few, but related projects, and
  • Have minimal (sometimes) or no (optimal) ongoing operational (run the business) responsibilities.

From an outsider’s perspective, it’s maybe easiest to define the core team as the people who always know what’s going on with the project.  It certainly is simpler.  The core team attends all the status meetings, they update the project plan, the gather requirements and they estimate work.  They track finances, communicate project milestones, and track every hour of every day.  They become a project team when the project begins, and they dissolve when the project wraps-up.

Extended teams comprise the subject matter experts needed to produce the end product.  Java developers build web applications, corporate lawyers make sure any new product guarantee language is acceptable, and the sales team helps engage clients and define their needs.

But in a 18 month project, the Legal department may only be used for a combined total of a week or two, so they’re not core team members.  They become engaged when it’s time, and only generally updated otherwise.

It’s the core team’s job to make sure the extended team stays informed of project progress and is engaged when necessary.  The core team is like the hub of a wheel that keeps all the spokes in line and the project rolling along smoothly.  This includes building and managing communication plans, task plans (or work breakdown structures), and deliverables.  The only real work performed by the core project team is the work of enabling other people to succeed.  It’s the Technology team, the Marketing team, and every other subject expert in the extended team that actually puts together the finished product.

For example, let’s say a big box consumer retailer decides to start selling computers, and one of the projects related to the launch is in charge of getting these new machines on to the website and available for purchase online.  A project team is formed.  But where could they find a team with experience in big box consumer retail, consumer electronics/PC retail, online retail, web development, warehouse management systems, point-of-sale software, and third-party logistics?  They couldn’t.  Certainly not within their organization.

But they could find a bunch of people with one or two of those skills and place them on the extended team.  The core team will be staffed with experts at project delivery, not at launching PCs online to an existing web retailer.  That division of labor lets each person shine at what they do, and builds economies of efficiency that help the project to run better.  So the project team sets up the project by building the teams, securing funding, establishing project and product requirements, and gets everybody rolling.

Fifty percent or more of  the core team’s time is spent in meetings with the extended team, including the project sponsors or stakeholders.  In fact, the core team’s time probably breaks down like this:

A career in project delivery can be very rewarding for people who recognize the skills needed to succeed, and the social nature of the position is too often underrated.  I’ve never seen a project fail due to technology or money; it’s always been about the people.

A successful career in project delivery requires skills like analysis, leadership, written and verbal communication, influencing others, managing ambiguity, and perhaps above all, teamwork.  For the right person, it’s a wonderful, rewarding career choice.


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