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What Skills Does A Good Project Team Member Need?

There are many training options for training project managers, but you don’t often see a similar effort on training project team members. Project team members are usually subject matter experts and the prevailing belief is that the subject matter expertise is all that is required to be a good project team member. Based on my experience, I think that teaching team members a basic level of project management knowledge would be beneficial for the project manager and increase the chances of a successful project. The following are some knowledge and skills for your training program:

Definition of a Project and the Triple Constraints: A common set of terms greatly helps in communicating your decisions and ideas to your team. It is also vital that the team appreciate how scope, schedule, and budget constraints affect project decisions.

Effective Progress Reporting and Earned Value Management: Reporting progress is often seen as burdensome by project team members because they may not understand how their status reports helps in keeping the project on track. An overview of earned value management puts the reporting into context for team members and may encourage better reporting by team members.

Project Tool Interpretation: It is not necessary for a team member to create a work breakdown structure, a Gantt chart, or network diagram. Even so, a team member should be able to read these tools so that they understand the overall project direction and how their specific work tasks fit into the final project result.

Estimating Techniques: When creating a project schedule and budget, the project manager may rely on the project team members to estimate parts of the schedule and budget that apply to their tasks. Thus, knowing how to make good estimates is essential for project team members.

Identifying Risks and Reporting Risks: Of course the project manager is in charge of the risk management plan but project team members can be the early-warning system for detecting risks. Keep the team current on the risk management plan and encourage them to report potential risks.

There may be other topics that you want to include in your training program but you also want to make sure you don’t overwhelm the project team members. However, a good set of basic project management skills helps the project team members better understand how their efforts fit into the overall project activities and aids the project manager in effectively controlling and delivering the project.

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Josh Nankivel

This is probably just a reflection of difference in project types/environments, but my list is completely different than yours Bill.

We use lean/agile on software development projects for my teams. I do the translation of status reporting for EVM and those things the traditional waterfall umbrella requires. My teams care about velocity and flow, not EVM and our team tools are intuitive (kanban board, decomposition excercises, planning poker, daily stand-ups, etc.)

So for me, primary attributes I look for are:

  • Honesty
  • Open and transparent communication; a sharing mindset and willingness to speak up
  • Follow through on what they’ve committed to
  • Technical Expertise

I actually don’t think these attributes can be nurtured through any training program. The immediate behavior feedback model I use can move people towards the type of behavior we want, and the way the project manager conducts themselves.

Avatar photo Bill Brantley

@Josh – I have to respectfully disagree. The first three attributes you list are character traits and that should be part of the hiring consideration because, as you say, these attributes cannot be trained into a person by the project manager. As for technical expertise, that is a given for either agile or traditional project teams.

I believe that my list still applies once you make an adjustment for the agile tracking tools rather than EVM. You want your agile project team member to understand what a project is and have a good appreciation of the constraints. Also, don’t assume that kanban boards and other agile tools are all that intuitive (especially for someone new to agile). It is even more important that agile project team members know how to estimate accurately and report progress accurately. And you certainly want your agile project team members to be constantly aware of risk.

It’s my pet peeve but I don’t believe that switching to agile project management means you have to throw out ALL of the best practices from traditional project management.