Project Team Building (Best Practice)

RT-037 Topic Summary
RT 037


An effective team building process can bring significant, not simply marginal, improvements in project execution and results. Use of team building represents a “step change” in the way projects are managed and in the ultimate project performance.

It is not uncommon during the design/construction process for an adversarial relationship to develop among the parties involved, usually the project owner, designer, and contractor. Since this type of relationship is seldom constructive and frequently the cause of problems, CII formed the Project Team Building Task Force to examine how the adversarial relationship might be minimized.

Key Point – The research team did not focus on teams in general, but instead on the team building process. What is the team building process? It is a process that brings together a diverse group of individuals and seeks to resolve differences, remove roadblocks, and proactively build and develop the group into an aligned, focused, and motivated work team that strives for a common mission and for shared goals, objectives, and priorities.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Extent of Adversarial Relationship

Working relations among a project owner, designer, and/or contractor frequently are characterized by mistrust, poor communication and cooperation, and an adversarial nature. However, while such relationships are frequent, they are not the norm. (RS37-1, p. 6) 

Reference: (RS37-1)

2 : Causes of Adversarial Relationships

In the opinion of experienced industry practitioners, the most important causes are:
  • Poorly defined scope of project
  • Excessive change orders
  • Changes not properly managed
  • Lack of communication of objectives
  • Unrealistic project schedule and unrealistic project budget

(RS37-1, p. 6)

Reference: (RS37-1)

3 : Cost Impact of Adversarial Relationships

The two causes cited as having the most severe impact on project costs and results are:

  • Poorly defined scope
  • Excessive change orders

(RS37-1, p. 7)

Reference: (RS37-1)

4 : Commercial Relationship and Team Building

Project team building was used successfully regardless of the type of commercial relationship (lump sum or cost reimbursable contract) among the parties. (RS37-1, p. 7)

Reference: (RS37-1)

5 : Costs and Benefits of Using the Team Building Process

The costs associated with using team building are minuscule when compared to the benefits received. Those benefits may include reduced adversarial relationships, lower project costs, improved project quality, shorter project schedules, and a commitment to future use of team building. (RS37, p. 9)

Reference: (RS37-1)

6 : Characteristics of Effective Project Teams

Effective project teams are characterized by trust, shared goals, interdependence, a shared commitment to work together, a shared sense of accountability, pride in team members, open communication, and giving team members a lot of feedback. (RS37-1, p. 12)

Reference: (RS37-1)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved cost, Improved schedule, Improved performance/achieved success, Reduced change, Reduced claims, Reduced project growth, Improved predictability, Improved customer satisfaction

Research Publications

Team Building: Improving Project Performance - RS37-1

Publication Date: 07/1993 Type: Research Summary Pages: 36 Status: Supporting Product

Team Building: Implications for the Design/Construction Process - SD-87

Publication Date: 02/1993 Type: Source Document Pages: 64 Status: Reference

Supporting Resources

Education Materials

Building the Project Team - Instructor's Guide - EM37-21

Publication Date: 08/2001 Type: Education Module Pages: 0 Status: Supporting Product

Building the Project Team - Participant Handbook - EM37-21A

Publication Date: 08/2001 Type: Education Module Pages: 0 Status: Supporting Product

Maya Project: Success Through Team Building - VC-605

Publication Date: 08/1996 Type: Video Pages: 0 Status: Supporting Product