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Posted on June 8th, 2012, by

Project planning in teams is an integral constituent of team dynamics.  When a team has been already formed it is time for it to start working on a project in order to reach the goals of the team or company in a whole.  It is necessary to keep in mind two peculiarities about team projects.  The first peculiarity is that all projects no matter what their goals are need to be carefully planned and structured before the implementation.  And the second peculiarity is that the given projects will be performed not by an individual but a group of individuals, which may result in a certain conflict of interests or other problems which may be encountered while working with a group of people.

People have been working in teams for centuries accomplishing various tasks very successfully.  However, only recently scientific researches have been conducted on the matter of teams, teams’ performance and effectiveness, and the accomplishment of new projects by so-called high performance teams.  Results of scientific researches have proved that a team is clearly distinguished from a simple group of people by means of certain characteristic features.

Also, it has been found that working in teams allows people to fulfill certain projects faster and more effectively, however, it is only possible when new projects have been carefully planned and structured in advance.

The main goal of designing current study is to examine the process of project planning in teams as one of important aspects of team dynamics.  The paper will focus on the elements of project planning, such as setting the goals, distributing responsibilities, surmounting obstacles and others.  Advantages and disadvantages of working in teams will be analyzed further in the study, as well as evaluation of performance of teams as compared to groups of people and individuals.

Project Planning in Teams

Before analyzing the process of project planning in teams it is necessary to identify the differences between such terms as a group of people and a team.  A group is a number of people (members) that are treated as one unit, while a team is a group of people who work together with a common goal and perform certain functions for the benefit of every member.  There is a special type of a team, known as high-performance team, which is a group of people that achieve a quantum leap in performance in less than a year [Hanlan, 2004].  In order to build up a team, it is necessary to set the goals for the team and define the boundaries within which a team will be working.  The key elements that are necessary for the creation of any team include several individuals willing to participate in team’s activities, common purposes, time, financial resources and efforts from the side of every member.  Also, all members of a team should posses a common vision and to be focused on the same objectives.  The majority of teams are not created for the process of project planning only, however, all team members take active part in direct implementation of the plan developed by the team.  It is generally believed that important factors in creating and maintaining team effectiveness are an informative and comfortable environment, participative discussion, attentive listening, consensus decision making and freely expressed ideas [Wyric, 2006].

As it has been stated above, project planning in teams is one of the important aspects of team dynamics as well as one of the essential steps of project management.  Being a complex of assignments which need to be fulfilled by certain date, a project has a specific objective to be completed within certain specifications, defined start and end dates, funding limits [Kerzner, 2003].  According to the author of the book Project Management: a System Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling Harold Kerzner, project may consume human and non human resources (i.e. money, people, equipment) [Kerzner, 2003].  In its turn, project planning is one of the steps of project management, which includes setting the goals, scheduling, distribution of responsibilities, definition of work requirements, definition of quantity and quality of work and definition resources needed [Kerzner, 2003].

When the project planning is conducted for teams, it is also necessary to select the team members and decide what duties will be performed by each member of the team.  It is commonly acknowledged that the planning process answers five basic questions: what, why, who, how and when.  Project planning begins with setting the project’s objectives and thus defining the project’s scope [Wyric, 2006].  This step answers the question why.  The second step involves determining the specific tasks that will need to be accomplished – the what [Wyric, 2006].  When the objectives and the tasks of the project are identified, it is time for the next step, which involves determining in what sequence the tasks will be accomplished.  This step answers the question how.  The following step is to decide what assignments will be performed by each of the team member who.  And the last step answers the question when, by finding out an estimate of the time needed to accomplish each task and a project schedule needs to be determined [Wyric, 2006].  Major condition of effective planning is the necessity for all team members to agree upon the objectives of the project.  If there is a leader in the team, who conducts most of the project planning, he/she needs to make sure that everybody understands what needs to be accomplished.  It is rather effective to break the project into tasks, so every task can be performed by a single team member or a small subgroup of the team [Wyric, 2006].  Also, it is important to consider all possible strategies and their advantages and disadvantages in order to choose the best one.  When the strategy is chosen, it is necessary to assign the tasks to team members, who will bare full responsibility for their accomplishment.  While fulfilling any project a team is limited by certain amount of resources.  They can be financial resources, time, or certain material resources.  Thus, during the planning stage of the project, it is important to correlate the goals of the project with the resources possessed.

Speaking about the example of a team for which the process of project planning is to be conducted, we may take a learning team at college.  For example, a group of students at college received an assignment to create their own company which would operate in the market.  Students have been divided into groups, so every group has to create one company each.  This is a learning group, because before creating a company, it is necessary for the group members to learn how a company operates, what it is necessary to do to start up a company, to decide what it will be producing and etc.  First of all, the given group of students needs to be turned into a team.  Thus, all members of the group need to understand that they have a common objective after achieving which they will be rewarded by a positive or negative grade.  Having realized that only working together team members will be able to reach success, it is necessary to move to the next stage and to plan their actions.  Students need to find out what tasks need to be done in order to fulfill this project.  For example, it is necessary to create company’s structure, to develop its strategy, to contrive a name for the company, to decide whether the company will be producing goods or rendering services, to decide who will be managing the company and etc.  All of these tasks need to be written down in the order they have to be fulfilled.  Then, it is necessary to decide what tasks will be accomplished by certain team members.  Obviously, the team is aware when the project is due.  Thus, it is important to schedule all tasks, so all of them are done in time.

Learning team as well as working team has certain resources it can use.  In this case the resources might include time and efforts of every team member, literature in the library, the Internet, creativity and some little money, which is necessary, for example, to buy paper to put the name of the company on or print out necessary materials.  Once the final goal is set to create a company, and the roles of all team members are determined, it is necessary to think about possible obstacles which may prevent the team from successful fulfillment of the project.  These obstacles may include lack of resources or inability of team members to fulfill certain tasks, thus, the team needs to develop an extra plan to overcome the obstacles.


In conclusion, working in teams involves both benefits and challenges.  Benefits include: effectiveness, rapidity of fulfillment of projects, distribution of responsibility, enhanced problem-solving and decision-making capabilities, leveraged talents and the ability to understand multiple perspectives, increased creativity and risk-taking, instilled a climate of openness [5] and others.  However, the process of developing a real team is rather challenging and time-consuming.  If a team has been established it does not mean that it will exist forever, thus, there is a risk of breaking the team.  Also, some individuals are unable to work in teams. That’s why it is necessary to carefully choose team members in order to create a team which would work effectively and harmoniously.


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