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Ok, you have the project, you have an idea of what the goal is, who the client is, and a basic awareness of what it is going to take to get to the finish line with the client. Now it’s time to settle in and start putting everything in place to actually deliver: the structure, the team, the strategy and the processes. Where do you start? All this can be a bit convoluted by other projects you’re working on – especially if any are running full steam at the moment demanding 110% of your time and efforts. That never happens, right? Right.

One major key to performing at the top of your game and driving home a successful project is making sure you put together the right creative team to get the job done. I’m not talking about the best of the best… but rather the right project team. There are other considerations when assembling the team than just getting the best… but let’s not digress. How do we know what we even need from the project team?

Assess the project needs. Look around. What information do you have that tells you the needs and goals for the project? It can be notes and interviews from and with the account manager who sold the project to the client. It may also be mockup drawings of the creative output that has likely been promised as the solution (or requested by the client, if they had a very good upfront idea of what they wanted; otherwise that will be coming after you first starting meeting with the client). What does the project need from a resource standpoint as far as you can tell at this very early stage?

Review the statement of work. If there is a statement of work (SOW), then you probably have the Holy Grail of the most info you’ll get going into the creative engagement. The statement of work should have a high-level overview of the project. From the SOW, you’ll get the goals and mission of the project and, therefore, ultimately for the project team. It should also include any assumptions that the project is relying on, some draft dates and timeframes for key project deliverables and some idea of what the project team member skill sets will need to be.

Conduct an early client discussion. Next, introduce yourself to the client. Talk about the upcoming project kickoff, who you are, how you plan to run the project, when key dates are likely to happen, and what the team will or should look like. This is a key opportunity to gain any additional insight from the project client as to their expectations for the project. It’s never straightforward, and there are always little nuances you can pick up on. This is your first chance to do that as the project manager so be very careful, ask some great questions and be aware. Communication is Job Number One for the project manager as I always say, and this time the communication element is listen closely and carefully. What questions you ask, of course, will not be standard to any project discussion – they will need to be tailored to the engagement and client at hand. But ask away.

Create the resource requests. Finally, depending on how the team building process flows in your organization, create the individual team member resource requests. Shoot for the moon, as you want the best talent available. But possibly more importantly, you want good performers – rather than great performers – who may gel together better than the top tier performers if you have a large pool to select from. The best of the best often come with egos and sometimes that can drag a team down rather than promote performance and collaboration. If a particular resource has a “reputation” as being difficult to work with, don’t expect that you are going to suddenly change him, and do wonders for your team and project by bringing him in.

Summary / call for input

One of the first and most critical early steps of the project is assembling the project team. Remember: it isn’t always about finding the best individual talent and putting it all together; it’s about putting together the right mix of talent, collaboration and performance that will successfully get the job done. Assess the project, assess the needs, discuss with the client, and start assembling the right team for the engagement.

Readers – what’s your take on putting the project team together? What are the typical steps you go through? What concerns do you take into consideration and what role does the project client play in this process?