During earlier days, project managers would diligently and independently plan behind their workstations. They strategize, estimate, control work activities and make decisions and work their best to achieve desired end results on time, within budget and customer specification. The rest of project management focuses on tasking the assignments and controlling.

Organizations attempting projects across business functions and multi- disciplines and geographies increasingly encounter great challenges that threaten their success. Often, business development people will specify requirements for products and services. The project team or performing organization will build the product and services. Finally, the ultimate customer or end-user may decide to accept or reject the product or services.

The new paradigm for delivering successful projects or any organizational initiative is building a committed and tactical coalition that is a bonding of sponsors, influential people, and team members. The support or the lack of it represents a transparent but powerful force that will either steer the team toward or away from the goals. Involving a core team means the difference between success and failure.

Smart project managers would set up task groups and ad-hoc working committees to plan, define, document, report, measure and eventually deliver the products and services. For example, one would include key customer representatives and subject matter experts in a requirements working committee to define and document customer requirements. Another similarly represented working group would continue with formulating acceptance test plans. Key stakeholders are involved and given a stake in the planning task, they will contribute with greater commitment. One valuable outcome of a customer-involved user acceptance test plan would be that everyone, including the customer is committed to work in getting a successful project acceptance.

Having a core team to define scope, develop work breakdown structure, estimate duration, develop schedule, and create budget, etc. allows for high level strategies and lower level technical perspectives to be considered as compared to a single project manager working on the plans.

The size and composition of the core team is crucial. You should only involve key and relevant team leaders or other key stakeholders for planning and decision-making tasks. Having too large a core team will have too many cooks and probably spoiling the broth.

The thing that matters is meaning. It drives everything. Team members align their attention to the things that matter to them and the stuff they know best. They would contribute responsibly in the domains of their expertise with the project manager facilitating the entire planning and decision making process.

Success may never come without a compelling personal commitment to something you care about and would be willing to deliver without considering monetary rewards or promotion as an outcome.

If you want decisions that are supported and success that lasts, then you are better off by involving the core team and build up that good relationships to last through the project life cycle and beyond. Regardless of their roles, your “virtual team” will follow you throughout your career. Golden Rule #6 will discuss how you develop that relationship and a highly performing team.

Last but not least, the involvement of management is critical to project success. The soldiers do not fight a successful battle without the generals and commanders. When in enemy lines and securing enemy targets, you better have your commanders behind your back. The project sponsor and key management representatives have to be there to steer the project team and shield them beyond the defined baselines.

Alan Puan, PMP®, PMI-RMP® | EPM Training Services Pte. Ltd.