Designing Project Teams

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Developed by Humira Ehrari



The most common characteristics of Danish companies are, that for each project, they are composing a new team. The composition of project teams are based on the employee availability for the project (Hvenegaard 2003). That means that the project teams are randomly formed. Ensuring the right team is now an important managerial activity for project managers. The dilemma is that often a project manager does not know where to find the expertise and right person within the organization (Belbin, 2010).

As launching and building the project teams are the most important stages of starting up a project, my research in this article is to find out how Belbin’s team development-concept will help to ensure the right teams in projects. Belbin team development is a tool that makes it possible to get an overview of where team members are assigned optimal roles. It sheds light on whether each team need specific roles to solve a given task optimally (campion M, 1996).

By picking and matching high-performance teams, the project manager will ensure a good team and increase the overall efficiency and opportunity to experiencing the positive effects that they have hoped for (Cohen S, 1994).

Designing teams

Many theories indicate that it requires knowledge of group formation and structure of the team to achieve a high performance team (Tuckman 2000). When building a team, it is important that there is a framework for creating a high-performance team, which includes a positive team environment and collaborate problem solving. The positive team environment includes basic rules, team identity, listening skills, and meeting management (Hvenegaard 2003). In addition, collaborative problem solving consists of continuous learning, conflict solving, decision-making styles and problem analysis (Hvenegaard 2003). Therefore, managers should focus on building relationships between the team and provide leadership and management. The open and trusting relationships reduce communication barriers and have an impact on communication efficiency. In order to complete a project successfully, it is important that there is a good relationship and good cooperation among the team members. As it is a part of humans social needs. (Hein 2009)

There are many factors such as; group roles, conflict solving, learning styles, and guidance which have influences on the nature of the group. It is therefore important that all stakeholders in the group have achieved a common understanding of the principles behind the goal (Algreen 1997). When a project team is formed, each person in the team takes a type of role. This role may vary and is influenced by various factors, such as teamwork, the number of people in the team, the social relationship between the team members' roles and responsibilities (Algreen 1997). In order to build a strong team (Mullins 2007) argues that it is important to ensure that there is a balance between team members' functional role and team role. By ensuring balance between team's roles, you get a strong team, who together make each other better, by using each other’s strengths and avoiding each other’s weaknesses. Because it provids better awareness of each person's own role and other team roles, which helps to ensure internal acceptance of colleagues' strengths and weaknesses in teamwork. This gives a much greater efficiency, job satisfaction and communication among individual team members (Hilary 2008). For composition and development of such strong teams, Belbin Team roles theory will be a good starting point. The definitions of team’s roles help prevent inefficient teams and conflicts between employees, which occur because of different ways of thinking (Mullins 2006). Belbin Team Roles theory is a powerful concept because it introduces a common language for roles and team cooperation; it then becomes easier to talk specifically about how each member contributes to a part of the work and the end result. It is a tool that optimizes the composition of the teams (Belbin 2010).

Belbin and his team roles concept

To describe the importance of selecting the right team members, Dr. Meredith Belbin and his team roles concept is one of the most recognized theories, which is based on his extensive analysis of the composition and development of teams. The theory is based on a variety of other theories on the same subject (Belbin 2010).

Over nine years Belbin and his team analyzed and observed, the factors which influence whether a team was successful or failure. His research resulted in two main conclusions (Mullins 2007);

- Nine team roles as a result of the empirical research. Describes the behavior and the contribution to the team, which can ensure effectiveness and success.

- A team's strengths and weaknesses in relation to project teams-composition.

Belbin defines 9 roles, which a person may take in the context of a group. The analysis says nothing about the individual's skills, neither does it evaluate the individual as being good or bad at their job, but focuses on the role each employee plays in the team. The profile consists of an analysis form, each team member should fill out, and a number of questionnaires (Belbin 2010). Team Role analysis is very valuable work for Team Development, both for the individual and for the whole team. Belbin team-roles is a tool that makes it easy to work with team development and focuses on how the individual will have an important role in the team's overall problem solving.

A team role is defined by Dr Meredith Belbin as: “A behavior pattern that is characteristics for the way a person acts against another person in circumstances where this behavior is used to promote the whole group's work" (Mullins 2007).

In the following I will describe the various team roles, their characteristics, their strengths and weaknesses on teamwork.

The nine team roles

Plant: This role is not necessarily the official leadership role and can therefore in principle be held by all group members. He is the visionary member who often takes the lead and puts projects. He knows what can be done and knows how to motivate others to give to the project. (Belbin 2010)


  • Dynamics
  • Get others to provide


  • High temperament
  • Impatient
  • Provoking effect on the other team

Organizer: The organizer has an eye for other people's ideas and make sure that others' strengths are exploited for the benefit of the whole group. They understand that it is about achieving the right balance in the group, which takes into account all group members' strengths and weaknesses. The organizer works by listening to the opinions of others, summarizes information obtained, mediation between team members, and ensure that decisions are changed according the information obtained (Belbin 2010).


  • Disciplined
  • Large Loyalty
  • Focus on Efficiency
  • Tend to draw realistic assessments


  • Inflexible
  • New ideas are perceived as airy until they are proven

Idea-creator: it is natural to work with reflections on the task from start to finish, as well as the main roads have to be accessed in the workflow. They are good at using their creativity and thinking in new directions. This can be especially good if the group is about to "go dead" in the task. "Idea-creator's" ability and interest to see new ways and focus on the broad outlines of a project mean that often they do not want to work with routine and detail work (Belbin2010).


  • Creativity
  • Ingenuity
  • Resourcefulness


  • Dont want to work with routines
  • Not focus details

Resource Investigators: have a good overview of the ideas and suggestions other team produces. They have a good eye for resources and people who exist outside of the group but may be able to help the group move forward. Resource investigators can often help to improve the proposals and ideas, because they have an eye for special combinations in relation to team members, resources and other solutions. Resource investigators, however, often have to get input from others as there is a danger that they will get bored themselves and thus become ineffective in the group (Belbin 2010).


  • Extroversion
  • Enthusiasm
  • Curiosity
  • Has a good ability to investigate and seek out opportunities


  • Quickly lose interest
  • Talk a lot

Analyst: will make sure that all ideas and suggestions are well thought out before it is decided to go ahead with these. They provide critical evaluation of several alternatives on an objective basis and therefore occupy an important role in the group when it comes to assessment issues. The weakness of analyst is that they can be so critical, they are not receptive to new initiatives or changes in relation to the decisions taken (Belbin 2010).


  • Analytical glance
  • Objective approach
  • Strong judgment
  • Has the ability to evaluate rational aspects in the work


  • very direct
  • Critical
  • has it hard to enthuse other team members

The intermediary: In order to get the team work well, it is important that there is a good atmosphere in the team. This ensures team worker are heard, as they try to support the other group members in their belief in their own abilities, ideas and opportunities to bring something to the solution of the group. They are a catalyst in the group's communication, as they make sure everyone is heard and constantly find new ways to open up the conversation in the group. They are also good at mitigating conflicts and contradictions within the group.The intermediary shall ensure social cohesion, where the roles are bound together and creating team spirit. The intermediary would then like that all is well, which can result in conflict-avoidance. At the same time, the intermediary may be a little invisible in the team, but only until they are gone and the small discussion starts to flare up(Belbin 2010).


  • Extroversion
  • Diplomatic skills
  • Flexibility
  • Has the ability to avoid friction and create a good working


  • Undecided
  • Allergic
  • Confrontational
  • Is uncertain in crucial situations

Finisher: is aware of how things can go wrong and what needs to be looked through thoroughly. In the last part of the task can "finisher" become impatient and nervous about the critical details should be forgotten. The finisher's important task is to ensure a high quality end product (Belbin 2010).


  • Perfectionist
  • Focused on details


  • Impatient
  • Nervous
  • Inner tension

Shaper: working practical, effective and systematic. They ensure that the routines and rules are created and that the adopted plans are being implemented. They identify a lot with the group and have not marked private agendas. They may have difficulty changing routines and plans, and deviations from the agreed decisions (Belbin 2010). Strengths:

  • Driven
  • Passionate
  • Willful
  • competitive


  • Impatient
  • Courageous

Specialist: is the group member who possesses a high level of professional knowledge and is therefore in many cases indispensable for the group. They work exclusively with the academic content of the group and through that a high commitment to the task. The Specialist, however, contributes almost exclusively for group work within an academic narrow field, while other areas and people in the group did not have their great interest. The specialist contributes to the team with a great deal of specific knowledge. The challenge is that they are often uninterested in what the team is working with besides this specialty area (Belbin 2010).


  • Strong professional commitment
  • Self-confidence
  • Specialist knowledge
  • Has a concentrated effort on their own goals and tasks


  • Un-interested in others areas
  • Often contributes only with its own professionalism to the team

Team Performing

Belbin has not defined optimal team sizes as it differs from project to project, but he suggest a team size about 10-12. If the team increases in the size, the team has to split in sub-teams (Mullins 2006). These do not necessarily have to cover all nine team roles, but they must be balanced. So the team, not consist of only idea genraters and specialists. Bur there should be some who analysis (analyst ) ideas and turns the ideas to something real.

It is also necessary to look at the order of selection of roles. (Belbin 2010) recommends starting with finding the idea generator, than looking after the other roles. In order to get team work function well, it is important that everyone knows each other's strengths and weaknesses, and that everyone understands each other’s role in relation to the project. If the teams knows each other and their roles in releation to the project, it will furthermore be a good basis to avoid conflicts in the team (Wong 2000). Team roles were described according to Belbin, who developed a theory that there are 9 different types of roles that can occur in a group. If the group is aware of the types of roles in the team, they gain greater understanding of everyone in the team, and this will help to find a balance in the team and organize a workflow that everyone's way of working is promoted (Hilary 1999).


Although the managers can judge from project participants CVs, if they are recruited the right professional profiles to a group, it is not guaranteed that the group will work perfect. An efficient, well-functioning project is not only determined by what the participants can academically, but also of the personal skills, abilities and personality type. Quality of work comes from good cooperation. When we give ourselves time and prioritize professional corporation, should the individual's wishes, goals and personal development be discussed and taken in consideration. It also means that we strengthen the ability to cooperate and that most employees can feel, that their professional approach to working life are weighted higher (Cohen 1994). The background of individuals preferred team role will be different from person to person. This is because the behavior is based on the interaction of several factors. Someone is evident in their behavior, which is shown by a clear profile and there is high correlation between self-assessment and the observers' assessment. Other people have a special ability to adapt to different working contexts. It may be a sign of versatility and attention to the team takes they are part of. Some variation in the most distinct team role can be expected (Mullins 2006). Belbin Team Development is a powerful tool when you want to work towards more efficient, happy and loyal employees in each team. Belbin Team Development is ideal when you want to attain: (Belbin 2010)

- More effective teams

- Enhanced cooperation and better communication between team

- Promote helping and supportive attitude within the team

- Fewer conflicts on the individual team

- Better working environment at team level

- Respect for the individual and team goals

- Create common understanding of team roles and project goal


[1] (Cohen 1994). The effectivness of self-managing teams: a quasi-experiment. Human Reæations, 47: 13-43.

[2] (Belbin 2010) Team Roles at Work. 2. Edition. R Merdith Belbin, Routledge. ISBN: 976-1-85617-800-6

[3] (Campion 1996) Relations between work team characteristics and effectiveness: A replication and extension. Personnel Psychology , 49; 429-53.

[4] (Hvenegaard 2003). Gruppeorganiseret arbejde: På vej mod bedre arbejdsmiljæ og konkurrence evne? København: Frydenlund.

[5] (Tuckman 2000) Creative leadership processes in project team development: An alternative to Tuckman´s Stage Model, British journal of management, vol 11

[6] (Hein 2009) Motivation: Motivationsteori og praktisk anvendelse” af Helle Hedegaard Hein version 1, københavn 2009.

[7] (Algreen 1997) Metode I Projektarbejdet projekt serien: Metode i projektarbejdet, problemorientering og gruppearbejde af Helle Algreen-ussing og Niels o. Fruensgaard.

[8] (Hilary 1999) Journal of Management Development Volume 18, Issue 8 Team role balance and team performance: an empirical study Partington, David Harris, Hilary 1999

[9] (Mullins 2007) Education Essentials of Organisational Behaviour Af Laurie J. Mullins Pearson Education, 2006. ISBN: 0273707345, 9780273707349

[10] (Wong 2000). The leader relationship: Building teamwork with and among employees. Leadershp& organization; 21:350-4

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