Project Team

Putting together a successful project team is hard work. Learn more about which requirements a project team should meet, what characteristics the team members should have and what "rituals" need to be considered when working together.
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Danny Locher

Business Design Coach

1. Team Setup

A project team for a Business Design project is jointly responsible for the success of the project. It consists of a Team Manager and two to four Team Experts and should meet the following requirements:

  • The Team Manager should have a time "budget" of at least 2,5 days per week (over a 10 weeks iteration).

  • Team experts should be available for at least two days per week (over a 10 weeks iteration)

  • A project team for Business Design should be staffed with the best people in an organisation not necessarily with the ones who are available. Take a look at the info box below for more insights.

  • The Team Manager and Team Experts together should have sufficient knowledge and skills to understand the sponsor's challenge and to find ways how to solve it.

Social Dynamics in Project Teams
  • To spur on the social dynamics of project team, we suggest the following composition:

    1. Two members of the project team should be highly experienced in the organization and the industry and should have proven track record of working together

    2. Another member of the project team should have similar qualifications as the first two but should not know them

    3. And the last two members (in case of a team of 5 members) should be NOT experienced, fresh from college or new in the company 

    4. The idea behind this composition is the following: The two experienced who know each other make sure that things move forward. They know enough people in the organization to get road blocks out of the way. The third experienced who doesn't know them, however, has the standing to challenge them (if they go crazy  or fall into the "group think" trap). And the two "fresh" members see things differently and infuse the project team with "fresh" thinking.

    5. Never build teams that are larger than five members. Larger teams are difficult to manage and will not perform. "Social loafing" and "sucker effect" are just two phenomena you will experience that will make your life very difficult.

2. Characteristics of Team Members

The question we keep asking ourselves is: Are there any attributes for good Business Designers we should be aware of when forming a team? Well, we are still investigating this question. Our intermediary and simple result so far is the following. Watch out for the combination of these attributes when selecting members of a project team:

  • "Dream big": Having people in a team who have a vision, a dream, something meaningful they want to accomplish in a project, helps a lot to establish a productive and high-performance teamwork.

  • "Get shit done": But having a dream is not enough for innovation. A team needs get things done. Members who are "stuck up" and too arrogant to work on tasks beyond their personal comfort zone are never a good choice for Business Design.

  • "Can laugh at himself": People with a good self-esteem, enough capacity to reflect and ready to embrace criticism and feedback with low chance of narcissism is what usually makes up a great team member.

  • "Know how to have fun": Funny people often show a decent level of smartness and intellectual capacity combined with a decent level of emotional intelligence. Every team needs that!

  • "Damn good at his special domain": Last but not least, we need members in project teams with great skills and knowledge in a specialised domain and, of course, in Business Design.

3. Team Rituals

A very important aspect of Business Design are team rituals embedded into the Business Design process to help the team establish a high-performance teamwork. Here are some examples:



Impact on Teamwork

Project Charter

All phases

  • Clear objectives for the project and a common understanding of "success"

  • Clear expectations and commitment from the management

  • Clear schedule with fixed dates for workshops and virtual teamwork

  • Clear roles among team members and beyond

Weekly status calls




  • Aligning tasks and responsibilities

  • Making progress visible

  • Finding solutions for problems quickly

Action Planning




Clear definition of assignment of tasks prevents "social loafing" and alignment and coordination between members of the project team

GTD - workshops



  • Forcing team members to concentrate 100% on a single (time-boxed) task

  • Getting things done and joint successes




  • Aligning different mental models of abstract ideas

  • Working with own hands increases the emotional link to product or service

  • Getting feedback from customers with prototypes triggers emotional and polarized feedback, which in return may impact the commitment

"Great prototypes build great teams" - Michael Schrage

Sponsor's sneak preview



Increasing commitment of team members ("sense-making")

Feedback from customers, users and experts (particularly with prototypes)


Increasing commitment of team members ("sense-making")

Working visually

All phases

Well, a picture says more than 1.000 words...

Time boxing

All phases

Every task could keep you busy forever. We restrict ourselves to a predefined timeboxes of 10 to 60 min. to get things done. It's never perfect, but it's done!

4. Virtual Teamwork

For virtual collaboration, we often introduce special team rules to ensure high-performance teamwork. These rules may include the following aspects:

  1. We come prepared: Pre-reading of documents, agenda, setup of IT systems has to be prepared prior to every meeting or workshop. Every step in a virtual gathering has to be prepared way more accurately than in the physical world.

  2. We choose to be present: Even our virtual interactions are touch points with humans and we are not distracted by other "side-gigs". If we can’t be there 100% we choose to not be there.

  3. We encourage social bonding: Particularly at the beginning of a video conference, we allow time for social topics and informal conversations. Current challenges, what people are doing right now, things that work in the project and beyond are on the agenda. Again, there are no robots at the end of the line. Expect to deal with humans!

  4. We give the teamwork a "rhythm": Team rituals, specific team slots for video calls, stand-up meetings and even a virtual beer after work are essential to connect people working remotely.

  5. We think twice about the best "channel": Not every channel (phone / email / instant messaging / video conference etc.) is suitable for every conversation. We are aware of this and choose the channel wisely. 

  6. We bridge the distance with "shared spaces": Literally every conversation is based around a "shared space", which can be a virtual whiteboard, a prepared powerpoint presentation or a workshop template (see Project Workspace). All results of meetings should be documented visually and transparent for everyone.

  7. We do breaks after 60 min.: Every conversation, meeting or workshop is sliced in 60 min. sessions. After each session, we schedule a short break of 10 min. to move, eat, drink, take a deep breath outside and refresh.

  8. We always end with tasks: Well, this is the case for all our meetings and workshops. However, for virtual teamwork this is even more important. We literally spend more time on aligning what tasks each team member needs to get done and how.

  9. We track team engagement and results: A simple task board can help track the productivity of a team transparent to everyone. If we can't meet physically and see others working, this kind of transparency can foster motivation and a shared team spirit.