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Building a Project Team like a Sports Franchise


Author: Anand Pandya

I’ve noticed a distinct parallel to how some of the best sports franchises put their teams together and how some of the best project teams are put together. When putting together a project team, it’s best to maximize the talents of your resources, ensure chemistry and guarantee that your customers receive the best that one can offer.

I’ll use basketball as my metaphor here – not because football or baseball don’t apply, but because trying to pare down 22 players or 9 players and a bullpen can get a little confusing, even for me.  I’m also going to use a standard BI/DW project.

For the most part, the common belief to build a successful team is not the star system that is being deployed in Miami or New York, but rather a straightforward “build around” system.

You build successful teams around a great solution architect.  They don’t to be the absolute best, most decorated architect in the history of Business Intelligence solutions, but someone who has done it before, leads by example, sacrifices themselves on a daily basis, raises the excitement of their project-mates and takes them to better places. (Think Jordan, Magic, Bird, Duncan, etc.)

From there, you surround that architect with one or two elite team leads. These folks don’t obsess over roles, but understand their place in the project hierarchy.   These are the ones who can specialize in the branches of the project – think the data team lead and the reporting team lead.  They’ll follow the same pattern and example of the architect, and deliver the highest of quality. (Think Pippen, Worthy, McHale, Parker, etc.)

With those keys in place, you complete the team with top-level developers. This isn’t to say these folks are any less valuable than architects or team leads, but these are the creators of the project deliverables.  They don’t make mistakes and keep the overall vision in tact.  (Think Grant, Horry, Fisher, etc.)

Finally, you wrap the project team within the constructs of a great project management and quality assurance methodology and have it delivered from the PM.  A coach, if you will.

Now, not every project has 6 people on it, nor does every project necessitate every role.  At the same time, there isn’t a value placed on one person or another – each cog in the machine has to work together with the right chemistry and respect for project success to be realized.  Point being, sometimes we can take the everyday aspects of our lives, like sports, and apply those principles to our daily grind.  Start treating your projects like you’re making your run at an NBA title, and you’ll find you take a new, more fun look at how things are run.

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