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The Ultimate Succeed/Fail List for Your Project Team

Business project teams, like sports teams, are as likely to fail as succeed. How do you avoid this? Follow the suggestions we’re offering, and you’ll increase the odds of succeeding greatly.

If project teams are organized and led effectively, profitable products are created and services are perfected. As a team member or leader, you build skills and catapult you career. Organizations live, limp, die or thrive based on the ability of their teams.

Otherwise those teams move clumsily though long days, crushed slowly under the weight of imprecise goals, and infective strategy. Team members spend endless hours slogging through poorly organized meetings, endless emails chains, contradictory directions—and team members that don’t ever quite interpersonally mesh.

Here is the Ultimate Succeed/Fail List for Your Project Team

  1. Does the Person who Convened this Team Have the Clout to Assure its Success? Everyone around you may agree that forming a specific team—in theory—is incredibly important, a great idea. Yet without the right person to maintain broad support, the team will not succeed.
  2. Why Do You Think Your Organization Needs this Team? Unless the objective of the team is among the top 5 things important to the organization, don’t form the team or be a member of it. Otherwise you may begin the team with great fanfare, but your team will end up on the organization’s back burner and starved for resources.
  3. Do the Team Members Have “Skin in the Game?” If people don’t feel their fortunes rise and fall with the success of the team, the team will be everyone else’s—not theirs. You’ll see that they show basic disinterest, that their interests don’t line up with the team. They will give you the idea that they’re doing you and the team a favor just to show up. Only when all of the team members feel team failure or success is personally theirs, will they commit. .
  4. Do Team Members Have the Bandwidth to Succeed? What Else Are They Charged to Do? Often team members—often the most capable—could be successful on the team, but huge numbers of responsibilities have been shoved on them to the point that they will succeed only in disappointing everyone. Just at the moment you need them most, someone else will pull their chain and they’ll be gone. Multiple loyalties kill teams. To be clear: You WANT really busy people on your team. Just make sure they have the time to commit to contribute effectively.
  5. Does the Team Have the Skills and the Talent to Accomplish the Goal? Otherwise, you’ll be stuck on a team of losers, and the optics won’t be pretty. Does the team have the resources or authority to hire outside consultants of vendors to cover the areas where team members don’t have the time or talent? Do the total team talents add up to success?
  6. How Have You Determined What Assumptions Will Impact How the Team Will Function? Every team member comes to the table with a different set of experiences, values, and assumptions. We tend to assume the people around the table think much more like us than we think. Spend time on getting to know each other and laying ground rules for how the team will work and interact together.


It’s important that you don’t allow anyone to push you into making a mistake by organizing a team that is doomed to fail. Lackluster, poorly performing teams damage the organization and dampen your career. In the end they attach you to a group of people who will take you through a stressful, perilous, and potentially boring period of your life. If you answer these fundamental questions about forming a team, you have an excellent chance of success.

Austin, Texas

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Carol Kallendorf, PhD. | (512) 417-9756 

Jack Speer | (512) 417-9428


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