Building Effective Teams

Engineers, architects, iron workers, concrete finishers, sheet metal workers, carpenters, electricians, and plumbers all work together with offsite vendors and suppliers in an intricate dance of coordinated individual functions as a skyscraper emerges from its foundation far below grade. The complex construction project observed through the fence from the sidewalk during lunch hour is the most graphic demonstration of dynamic teamwork in industry worldwide. A complex construction project is like an ant colony going about its mysterious, intricate task.


Teamwork is construction’s glue. Without it, complex construction projects would quickly descend into chaos. Therefore, a deep understanding of the human elements that create effective teams and the techniques used to build teams are becoming a more important part of the teaching technique in educational systems devoted to construction management.

Overall Resistance to Working in Teams

When attempting to model effective teamwork and develop team building techniques, university professors have encountered resistance among students to working in teams for the following three reasons:

  1. Students resist what they see as coordination costs – the increased amount of time and energy associated with activities such as coordinating schedules, arranging meetings, making collective decisions, and integrating individual contributions of team members.
  2. Students also resist what they see as Intellectual costs – the characteristics of group behavior that impedes the creativity and productivity of teamwork.
  3. Finally, they suspect certain motivation costs like – free riding – where most of the work is done by a few diligent members of the team.

Transforming Student Groups into Effective Teams: Utilizing Human Dimensions to Maximize Student Success

(Anusree Saseendran, Haskins Delvinne, and Kenneth Sullivan, Ph.D.)

This study conducted by researchers at Arizona State University and the University of Kansas analyzed the challenges associated with transforming student groups into effective teams. The sample for this study consisted of 310 students in an estimating course across five semesters at a large public university in Southwestern United States. The students were all enrolled in a construction management or construction engineering program. They were asked to complete personality assessments (HEXACO and Emotional Intelligence Inventory) at the beginning of a semester administered to them through an online survey platform. The research attempted to formulate a predictive model of team performance and a measurement of personality traits that were identified to have an impact on the ultimate success of each team’s assigned project. The following personality traits were identified as significant.

Personality Traits






Openness to Experience



Social Awareness


Relationship Management

Overall EI (Emotional Intelligence)

Looking at the impact of the statistical blending of these personality traits on the performance of 60 student teams in a Construction Management course revealed that generally teams with higher extraversion and agreeableness, and lower altruism tended to perform better. Among the five traits in Emotional Intelligence Appraisal, Relationship management was the only trait that was found to be significant in all three tests. However, to study the metrics of the impact of personality traits on the effectiveness of teams, readers must take a deeper dive into the data in the research paper posted on this website.

On the Job

Presently, team building on complex construction projects is largely organic. Owners hire general contractors they have had success with in the past – general contractors hire sub-contractors they know and trust – sub-contractors stick with their successful superintendents/foremen – who hire craftsmen they trust. The team is put together organically from past experience.

From the School House to Your House

Things, however, often go wrong when projects are sabotaged by internal competition and departmental conflict. The human factor and the impact of personality traits are always hard to measure. This study points out the impact of the “human personality factor” on the effectiveness of teams. How to apply research findings on team creation from the “schoolhouse” to a real-world complex construction project (“your house”) is a question we will attempt to answer in future blogs – watch this space.

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