Team Organization

Whatever the scope of your project is, you have a limited amount of time from beginning to completion. This may including designing, prototyping, testing, manufacturing, and a number of other components. In order to use that time wisely, it is important that your team gets organized quickly and effectively. We will discuss several different components of team organization that will make your project workload more manageable.

Team Breakdown

The first thing you’ll want to do is break down responsibilities into a number of sub-teams. These are often called Integrated Product Teams, or IPT’s. There is no set order on how to do this, but it might be convenient to break the work up according to your team members’ specialties, especially if your team is small. For example, you might decide one team member has the most experience with FEA and ought to be working primarily on the Structures team. Other team members might volunteer for a team based on interest.

It is pretty common to have each team member on multiple IPT’s. This allows team members to give their own unique input on multiple segments of the project, and increases their awareness of what the team as a whole is doing. Additionally, more work can be accomplished if team members have multiple responsibilities. You may also find that as the project goes on, it will become necessary to reallocate some team members to different IPT’s based on the design stage. A common example of this is when it comes time to manufacture the final UAV design. At that point, it would be smart to move most team members onto the Manufacturing IPT.

Leadership Roles

To keep each IPT on task, the team should select leadership either by appointment or election. A typical scenario is depicted in Figure 1. Here, a student is selected as the Project Lead, focusing on ensuring that teams are working effectively and correct principles of engineering are being applied. The Project Manager works alongside the Project Lead to adminstrate over the team’s schedule, budget, and other relevant tasks. The Team Leads oversee each individual IPT and report directly to the Project Lead. Although this is a common leadership format, the needs and resources of your project may dictate a different team breakdown.

Figure 1: Flowchart depicting a typical team breakdown.

Team Meetings

One of the biggest mistakes a project team can make is to spend too much time focused on unproductive meetings. That being said, team meetings can be a great tool if used properly. One of the easiest ways to increase meeting productivity is create an agenda. This might be done by someone such as the Project Manager or assigned on a rotational basis. An agenda should include follow-up on assignments given on previous meetings and discussion items. You might consider giving Team Leads access digitally so they can add items to the agenda ahead of time. The Project Lead would typically lead the meeting while another team member takes minutes. The most important outcome of this meeting should be the new assignments made with set deadlines so that work can be done effectively. The minutes should be distributed or available to everyone so they can easily see what they should be working on next.

Project Schedule

Once the team has been broken down into an effective organization, a schedule needs be created for project completion. A common tool in engineering for creating such a schedule is called a gantt chart (see Figure 2). A gantt chart consists of a series of project segments that are represented by horizontal lines on a timetable. The relative lenght of each line determines the amount of time planned for that segment. Although it is impossible to know ahead of time how long each segment will take, these can be used as a baseline for determining how ahead or behind your team is. The diamonds represent major milestones such as design reviews or other deadlines.

Figure 2: A simple gantt chart used by the BYU DBF Team.


If you are dealing with a large budget for your project, you will want to produce and update a budget. This will be an accounting of all your team expenditures related to the project. It is typical for the Project Manager to be in charge of this task. If you are being funded by someone other than yourselves, this will become an important tool to show how your resources are being used. A typical breakdown is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: An example budget.