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Building and Maintaining Effective Project Teams


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Author R F Dewhirst, K G Thomas and J A Wells


One of the contributing factors to the extreme cost escalation in the first decade of the 21st century was the increase in the amount and cost of engineering work that went into studies and projects. Various reasons for this were identified, including unsatisfactory productivity due to a shortage of experienced/qualified engineers, the increased complexity and infrastructure requirements of many projects due to location, metallurgy that is more challenging and increasing environmental and social requirements. These conditions often led to unsatisfactory project results in terms of cost and schedule blowouts and created a loss of confidence – both internally and externally – in the industry’s ability to complete projects on time and on budget.

Technical fundamentals aside, the experience and effectiveness of project teams has had, and continues to have, a major impact on project cost, schedule and ramp-up to nameplate capacity and operating parameters. There are unfortunately too many examples of where project teams have not been as effective as they could or should have been, all to the ultimate detriment of the project.

Using the authors’ extensive experience on both owner’s and engineer’s teams, this paper discusses some of the main reasons for suboptimal team, and hence project, performance and offers thoughts on how best to build and maintain project teams. The analysis and conclusions drawn are built around the Tuckman model of group development known as ‘forming-storming-norming-performing’, which was first proposed some 50 years ago. Given the importance of good teamwork to project success, understanding how project teams grow and become efficient and productive is an essential part of good project management that should receive more attention.


Dewhirst, R F, Thomas, K G and Wells, J A, 2016. Building and maintaining effective project teams, in Proceedings Project Evaluation 2016, pp 38–48 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).