Selecting Project Team Members

By Larry Chester

Project success can be as simple as having the right people on the team, all doing tasks they like to do. The best project managers know how to choose the most appropriate people for each project task.


Put a hash mark on each of the following two lines to indicate where you find yourself on most projects most of the time.

Do you choose the project team members, or are they given to you?

Choose                                                                                   Given


Whether you choose the team members or they are given to you, are they selected because they have the required skills and experience, or because they are available?

Skills & experience                                                                  Available


Regardless of where you put the hash mark, they key is to utilize team members as effectively as possible.

Put the right project team members in the right roles and the project works. Put the wrong team members in the wrong roles and the project will be in trouble.

In our workshops, we often ask participants to write their names on a piece of paper. We then ask them to repeat the task using their other hand. As they write their names the second time, we ask them how it feels. They respond, “Uncomfortable, difficult, slower, awkward, challenging, lower quality.” We ask them if it would be fair to say that most people have a preference for one hand over the other. Invariably, they respond, “Yes!”

People have a similar set of preferences for how they gather and process information. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can measure their preferences, determine the implications for their own project contributions, and make predictions about the preferences and implications of those preferences for other team members.

Myers-Briggs Preferences

selectingfig1 Selecting Project Team Members


Let’s first determine where you reside on each scale, based on the following indicators:

Personal Preferences

ExtravertI prefer to focus on the outer world of people and things. IntrovertI prefer to focus on my own inner world of ideas and impressions.
SensingI prefer to focus on the present and on detailed, concrete information gained from my senses. IntuitiveI prefer to focus on the future, with a view towards patterns and possibilities.
ThinkingI prefer to base my decisions on logic and on objective analysis of cause and effect. FeelingI prefer to base my decisions on values and on subjective evaluation of the people involved and organizational harmony.
JudgingI prefer a planned and organized approach to life and like to have things settled. PerceivingI prefer a flexible and spontaneous approach to life and like to keep my options open.

Team member indicators

You can determine the preferences of the project team members by observing what they say and do. For example, look and listen for:


Focus Outer world of people, places, and things. Concepts and ideas related to outer world.
Noise Thinks out loud. The first response is not necessarily the last response. Talks the issue through.
Response Speaks first, then thinks about it. Not a lot of quiet space in conversations. Leaps in to fill voids.
Energy Focuses on taking action. Sociable, comfortable, and highly animated within groups.


Focus Internal thoughts and ideas. Reflective.
Silence Loves quiet space; feels comfortable in it. Look for lulls and lapses in conversation.
Response Slower, more considered response. Seldom replies immediately. Takes time to think first. Responses, when they come, are generally well considered and well polished.
Energy Energy comes from ideas and concepts rather than from external environment.


Facts Practical, down-to-earth, application-oriented. Prefers routine. Reports in detail; states facts. Step-by-step and sequential. Starts at the beginning and arrives at the end.
Concrete Words Uses sensing verbs: taste, touch, see, hear, and smell. Very descriptive and detailed. Metaphors, when used, tend to be concrete, too. Everything is meant and is taken literally.
Numbers Likes to de definite: size, price, and quantity. Precise, not approximate.
Time Horizon Here and now. Less interested in speculation about the future.


Possibilities Stream of ideas, brainstorming, “what” if scenarios. Focuses on patterns and relationships.
Abstract Words Speaks in metaphors and parables. Answers questions with questions or with stories. Starts in the middle of things, leaps from subject to subject. May be hard to follow. Goes off on tangents easily.
Indefinite Prefers to be approximate. Uses few numbers. Focuses of qualitative, not quantitative. Comfortable with imprecise quantities: few, several, many. High tolerance for ambiguity.
Time Horizon Focuses on future. Interested in what will be or could be. May not be practical, especially when considering the future.


Brevity If not brief, at least not repetitious.
Objectivity Resistant to getting personally involved.
Task-Oriented Lower tolerance for chit-chat. Focuses on goals and objectives.
Logic Well-constructed communication with a defined beginning, middle, and end.
Analysis Likely to apply numbers, pros and cons, force field analysis to everything. Wants to find the “right” answer.
Criticism Skilled at finding the flaws and pointing them out.


Talk Talks constantly and warmly, with focus on people and their welfare.
Personal Subjective, personal approach to everything. Like to be involved; conscious of the effects of decisions on themselves and others.
Values Value-based decisions. Logic may or may not withstand logical scrutiny. Wants to find the right answer for the people involved.
Empathy Appreciative and expresses appreciation liberally. Overstated at times. Uses qualitative adjectives, including many superlatives.


Conclusions Decisions, conclusions, judgements, and opinions are usually very evident.
Planning Conversation in focused on getting things planned, scheduled, and completed.
Control Time is scheduled, sometimes far in advance. Spur-of the-moment actions are rare. Does not like surprises, especially on projects.
Expectations Likes to have things settled. Project expectations are usually apparent. Comfortable with plans and deadlines.


Hesitance Uses words like “may, might, hopefully, possibly, sometimes, would.” Very few absolutes stated. Flexible in methodology (but necessarily as flexible with goals and objectives.)
Delays Procrastinates. Avoids making the decision or planning the implementation until absolutely necessary.
Curiosity Very receptive to new ideas and new approaches. Prepared to try something new. Loves handling difficult problems.
Expectations Opportunity to do things differently. Wants new ideas and approaches to be considered. Does not like to be held to a deadline.

Implications of preferences for project assignments

Each of these preferences has implications for how the team member can best be used on the project:

Extraverts: action-oriented, like to get things done Introverts: able to work on their own for long periods of time
Assign them a task Research and/or analysis
Sensors: appetite for facts and details Intuitives: generate new approaches
Monitoring progress Brainstorming, innovation
Thinkers: critical, see the flaws Feelers: warm, sympathetic, empathetic
Risk identification and assessment Team building, selling the project
Judgers: planned, decisive, orderly Perceivers: flexible and adaptable
Planning Problem solving

Employ an old rule-of-thumb: If someone is doing something they really like to do, it isn’t work! The task will get done well, on time, and within budget. However, if you give someone a task they don’t like to do, it may not get done.

“First published in Project Times Summer 2000” (Project Times link

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