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The Ultimate Team

When starting a new project, one of the first challenges one faces is the mobilisation of a delivery team with the skills, experience and capability to not only function together but to bring individual strengths to the project. These are the resources that will achieve the objectives of the project and allow real benefits of value to be realised.

So what makes a good team? In project management, there are very specific roles which need to be filled but it is the dynamic of the team as a whole that makes the difference between success and failure. When I started looking at who I needed for my next project team, I could have started looking at Belbin’s Team Roles or Myers Briggs Personality Types but something made me stop.

There’s a new ultimate team in town…

Forgive the geek in me but as a fan of the recent Marvel cinematic releases (I almost squealed when the latest trailer was released), I could not help but compare the team of Earth's mightiest superheroes with the heroes of change delivery. Both face challenges, opportunities and risks that threaten the stability of the team as well as their chances of success.

But more importantly, each member of the team plays an important role in the overall function of the group. Let us compare them:

The Project Sponsor (Nick Fury)

The leader with an eye for the future, the Sponsor / Executive / Senior Responsible Owner is the strategic direction for the project. He sometimes knows more than his team, particularly about the bigger picture. He works closely with senior stakeholders and even if he is not dedicated full time to the team, he will always be there when he is needed.

The Project Manager (Captain America)

The visionary and leader of the group, the Delivery Lead / Project Manager understands the goals and ambitions of the project but more importantly, he is hands-on with the team on a day-to-day basis. Getting his hands dirty with the team while standing up for what he believes is right, his focus is around the team and its performance in line with the standards and value of the organisation. It is important that the customers, stakeholders and the rest of his team look up to him as an example throughout the life of the project.

The Product Owner or Service Designer (Thor)

Sometimes the Product Owner or Service Designer may seem a little removed from the rest of the team. They may come from a different part of the organisation or even play a more removed role (Product Owners may have to split their time between a number of products and services). But the team is certainly not complete without their guidance and knowledge of the wider universe. They are also a leader for the business and represent the values of the organisation to make sure that the vision for the new product or service is worthy and for the greater good.

The User Experience Designer (Hawkeye)

Gathering experience and knowledge about the needs of customers is a critical element of the project so you need someone with keen senses including precise hearing and a keen eye to spot the truth and reality of a situation. Focusing in on the target is critical across the entire team but having someone who has responsibility for maintaining this focus on end users throughout the life of the project will make sure that the final product satisfies user needs and customer expectations.

The Business Analyst (Black Widow)

Every project team needs to take information, analyse it and translate it into intelligent data that can be used to enhance the results of the team. Sometimes it is a bit of a mystery how the Business Analyst can take so much information and transform it into meaningful process maps, user stories and data models. But behind the mystery is an important set of skills and attitudes that allow her to achieve challenging timescales and give the rest of the team the support it needs to deliver a suitable outcome.

The Developer (Iron Man)

The techie of the team. More importantly, he is the main problem solver. Yes, others will help to define requirements, scope and approaches to the project (in fact, the Developer should not be doing anything without the support that the rest of the team offers). But his core skill is not technical specialism or a maverick attitude; it’s an ability to see the solution that is needed to fix a problem and get the job done.

The Tester (Hulk)

Okay, so this might seem like a strange analogy. But what better way to test a solution than smash the life out of it! Of course, the Tester is involved earlier in the life of the process than just the final battle but with an intelligent approach to testing and early planning, it is possible to fully test the performance and functionality of the end solution without losing your temper!

The Scrum Master (Maria Hill)

Sometimes the Scrum Master can go unnoticed when compared to the important roles of the rest of the team but everyone knows that her role makes the group function as a unit. Providing tools, techniques and support behind the scenes is important but the key role of the Scrum Master is to fix the underlying problems that are preventing the team from functioning fully. Without her efforts to get impediments removed and keep up a high velocity for delivery, the team might be doomed to failure.

The Communicator (Agent Coulson)

The public face of the project who may not always find themselves on the front line but shares the team values, goals and attitudes. He knows how to represent the team as well as the wider organisation. Sometimes it may be a thankless task, running around and getting messages across to customers and stakeholders. Sometimes they might not even feel like part of the team! Nevertheless, the Communicator looks at the wider implications of the project to make sure that everyone knows what is happening and how to play their part.

So the next time you are mobilising a project team, consider the resources available, their skill sets, their attitudes towards the challenges facing the project and most importantly, what they bring individually to the team. Change is simply a matter of balance. Every good meal needs different ingredients, every chemical compound needs stable elements and every project team needs its mighty band of superheroes to save the day.

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