We have helped several teams over the last few years organize and structure their team. Two of us here at FSAEparts.com have lead teams and have been on a formula team for more than 6 years. We feel that we have a pretty good understanding of team structure as well as what generally works and what doesn't work.
There are several different ways to set up your team, some work better than others and ultimately what works best for your team depends on the people you have. Here are some of our thoughts on general team structure that should help you get started:
1) Set up a team hierarchy like you might see in a professional race team.
2) Have 1 overall team leader
- Stay away from co-captains; it may sound appealing but rarely works out.
- Role of team captain:
- Manages and organizes the whole team
- Sets and runs team meetings
- Drives the goal-setting process, and holds team accountable
- Is the face of the team (both internally and externally) - interacts with the school/sponsors/etc.
- This person will gather the troops, have the final say in team disputes, and to take the blame for mistakes.
- Make sure that the team captain is leading by example
- He/she should be the most motivated, driven, and hard-working individual on the team.
- The best way to have authority is to gain your team's respect. Do this by showing you are willing to work harder than anyone else to make sure that goals are met.
- It's a fine line, but the captain needs to understand when to be strict/firm (being a borderline asshole) and when to be friendly and flexible. Being too much strict/uptight will drive your teammates away - they won't want to listen, let alone work with you, and probably won't want to come to you for help/questions. Being too nice may get people to like you, but your teammates will likely walk all over you, blowing off deadlines and slacking on their tasks.
- In the end, this should be someone the team looks up to, respects, and can rely on.
3) Split up into system sub-teams
- Instead of having one large group, organize into smaller system specific teams (i.e. powertrain, suspension, body/frame, etc.)
- Each sub-team should have it's own leader that reports to the overall team lead. This way the team will act as a governed body.
- Each sub-team should have weekly meetings to discuss plans for the upcoming week and problems from the previous week.
- Each week the leads should meet and report all the comments and concerns from their team to the overall team lead. This will help the overall team captain from being to busy to deal with every team members problems.
- At the end of every week, there should be one big overall meeting. Where the team captain addresses all the issues from the leaders meeting and informs the team for the upcoming week.
4) System Leads.
- The leader for each system sub team is responsible for managing and organizing his/her group.
- Helps develop goals/timelines for the group's parts and tasks, and makes sure these items are met.
- As mentioned before, holds meetings with his/her team to address issues, update task lists, develop goals, etc.
- Reports to overall team captain so he/she is up to date with each group's progress.
- Meet and communicate with other system leads to ensure all necessary information is getting to everyone that needs it.
- Ultimately responsible for his/her sub-team's success.
5) Finance/Marketing Lead
- Right hand of the team captain and helps with some of the administrative responsibilities.
- Manages finances, bookkeeping
- Plans events such as the unveiling, banquets, recruitment events, etc.
- Helps manage business side of competition (Cost and Sales Presentation)
- Depending of the number of people or interest on the team, there should be a group working under this individual. Also with regards to a small team size, some of these responsibilities may be shared/fall upon the role of team captain.
- These are usually participants that may not have officially assigned responsibilities, but are interested and willing to help out with the project. For example, if FSAE is a senior design project at your school, these can be underclassmen or non-credit seeking team members.
- Will generally take on support roles for the official team members
- Help manufacture/assemble parts
- Assist with testing
- Assist with administrative, PR, marketing, and business tasks
- Having a well rounded group of volunteers can prove extremely handy especially when approaching important deadlines - they can help alleviate the burden faced by the rest of the team.
- There should be a volunteer lead for this group; holds meetings, stays in contact with team leads, rounds up volunteers to help out with various tasks throughout the season.
"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way." —John Maxwell