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Int. J. Industrial and Systems Engineering, Vol. 7, No.

1, 2011

A task-member assignment model for complex


engineering projects
Lukasz M. Mazur
Industrial Extension Service,
North Carolina State University,
Centennial Campus,
Campus Box 7902,
Raleigh, NC 27695-7902, USA
E-mail: lukasz_mazur@ncsu.edu

Shi-Jie Chen*
Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering,
590 Garden Road, EB 234,
Northern Illinois University,
DeKalb, IL 60115, USA
Fax: +1 815 753 0823
E-mail: gchen@ceet.niu.edu
*Corresponding author
Abstract: Complex projects with large number of tasks usually require
expertise from various functional departments. While the use of teams has
become a common way in industry, the assignment of people to teams and
tasks is an important step during the planning stage of a project. If a project
does not have effective teams to work on it, the lack of communication and
cooperation among team members could seriously delay the project
completion. The objective of this paper is to develop a task-member assignment
model for complex projects using genetic algorithm (GA). Three important
team member characteristics (i.e. multifunctional knowledge, teamwork
capabilities and working relationship) with quantifiable measures and each
members workload schedule are used in the model for task-member
assignments, so that the right team member will be selected for the right task at
the right time. The effectiveness of the research model is demonstrated by a 27task engineering project.
Keywords: project management; team member characteristics; task-member
assignment; GA; genetic algorithm.
Reference to this paper should be made as follows: Mazur, L.M. and
Chen, S-J. (2011) A task-member assignment model for complex engineering
projects, Int. J. Industrial and Systems Engineering, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp.125.
Biographical notes: Lukasz M. Mazur is an Assistant Professor of Industrial
Extension Service at North Carolina State University. He received his PhD in
Industrial Engineering from Montana State University. His research interests
are in the area of healthcare with an emphasis on change management,
concurrent engineering and management and project team management. He has
also been a Systems Engineering Consultant for healthcare industry. He has
published refereed research articles in Health Care Management Science and
Journal of Industrial Engineering and Management.
Copyright 2011 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.

L.M. Mazur and S-J. Chen


Shi-Jie (Gary) Chen is an Associate Professor of Industrial and Systems
Engineering at Northern Illinois University. He received his PhD in Industrial
Engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo. His research
interests are in the areas of healthcare systems engineering, concurrent
engineering and management, project team management, production systems
and computer-integrated manufacturing. He has published refereed research
articles in Concurrent Engineering: Research and Applications, IEEE
Transactions on Engineering Management, Health Care Management Science,
Journal of Industrial Engineering and Management, Int. J. Production
Research, Computers in Industry, Computers and Industrial Engineering,
Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing and Computer Integrated Manufacturing
Systems.

Introduction

Complex projects with a large number of tasks usually require expertise from various
functional departments. The assignment of people to teams and tasks is an important step
during the planning stage of a project that should be based on valid and reliable
information with good decision support rules and systems. For example, the design of an
automobile can involve the coordination of hundreds or even thousands of tasks and
engineers from different departments who make more than a million design decisions
over months or years (Eppinger et al., 1990). However, if a project does not have
effective teams to work on it, the lack of communication and cooperation among team
members could seriously delay the project completion. The goal of team formation is to
leverage intellectual capital and apply it as quickly as possible (Chen and Lin, 2002,
2003; Wi et al., 2009; Kratzer et al., 2006). Teaming approach can draw talent quickly
from different functions, locations and organisations creating a higher potential for
successful project performance. The methods that organisations use to manage the
teaming process can mean the difference between success and failure (Bozbura et al.,
2007; Chen and Lin, 2004; Chien and Chen, 2008; Duarte and Snyder, 1999).
The objective of this paper is to develop a task-member assignment model for
complex engineering projects using genetic algorithm (GA). Three important team
member characteristics (i.e. multifunctional knowledge, teamwork capabilities and
working relationship) with quantifiable measures and each members workload schedule
are used in the model so that the right team member can be selected for the right task at
the right time.

Genetic algorithm

This was invented by Holland in 1975 and later developed by Goldberg (1989), GA is a
heuristic that mimics biological evolution as a problem-solving strategy, which has
proved to be very effective in solving non-deterministic polynomial-time hard (NP-hard)
problems such as project task sequencing and scheduling (Syswerda, 1990). The problem
of task-member assignment in complex engineering projects is an NP-hard problem. For

A taskmember assignment model for complex engineering projects

example, with 27 tasks and 42 members being considered in the task-member


42

assignment, the total number of possible solutions is or 9,867,242,662.


27
In general, the concept of GA is simple. First, an initial population of solution is
randomly generated and serves as a group of potential candidates for best solutions. Next,
GA selects/eliminates those candidates based on a user-defined selection method with a
user-designed fitness function for evaluating the individual solutions. Crossing and
mutation processes are used to create multiple variations of the selected solution, which
are later subjected to the next fitness evaluation and selection. The expectation is that the
fitness average of the population will improve each round, and therefore, by repeating
this process for hundreds or thousands of generations, an optimal solution or some near
optimal solutions to the problem will be obtained. Before GA can be put to work on any
problem, a method is needed to encode potential solutions to that problem in a form that a
computer can process. One common approach is to encode solutions as binary strings:
sequences of 1s and 0s, where the digit at each position represents the value of some
aspect of the solution. Virtually, every combination of process solution can be
represented by genetic code as a binary string called chromosome.
There are many strong points of using GA for task-member assignment vs. other
computerised problem-solving techniques or heuristics like calculus-based algorithms,
enumerative methods, random methods, hill-climbing methods, simulated annealing, tabu
search or neural network search, etc. According to our literature review (Azadeh et al.,
2009; Dawkins, 1996; Fan et al , 2009; Goldberg, 1989; Haupt and Haupt, 1998; Holland,
1992; Romeo et al., 2008a,b; Syswerda, 1990), some important strengths are:
1

Effectiveness in multiple direction search: GA can explore the solution space in


multiple directions at once. If one direction turns out to be a dead end, it can easily
be eliminated and GA continues working on more promising paths, giving a greater
chance of finding the optimal solution.

Efficient performance in complex problem: GA is particularly well-suited for solving


complex problem, where the space of all potential solutions is truly huge and is too
vast to search exhaustively in any reasonable amount of time.

Effective at escaping local optima: GA is effective at escaping local optima and


discovering the global optimum even in a very rugged and complex fitness
landscape.

No prior knowledge requirement: instead of using previously known and domainspecific information to guide each step and making changes with a specific eye
towards improvement, as human designers do, GA is a blind watchmaker that
makes random changes to the candidate solutions and uses the fitness function to
determine whether those changes produce an improvement.

There are also some important issues to bear in mind when using GA (Dawkins, 1996;
Goldberg, 1989; Haupt and Haupt, 1998; Holland, 1992; Romeo et al., 2008a,b;
Syswerda, 1990):
1

Code representation: some changes (usually mutations) to an individuals genes can


produce an unintelligible or even impossible results if code representation is poorly
designed.

L.M. Mazur and S-J. Chen

Fitness function: the problem of how to design the fitness function must be carefully
considered so that the it does equate to a better solution for the given problem. If the
fitness function is poorly designed or imprecisely defined, the algorithm may be
unable to find a solution to the problem or may end up solving the wrong problem.

Population size: it is crucial to establish an appropriate population size that will lead
to an optimal solution to the problem. In general, the more complex the problem is,
the larger the population size should be. Usually, it is recommended to test the newly
designed fitness function in order to determine the best population size to be used.

Premature convergence: this problem usually is dependent on which selection


method is used for the algorithm. Premature convergence happens fast if one
particular solution becomes dominant over the others. Premature convergence can be
avoided by controlling the strength of selection so as not to give excessive-fit
individuals too much advantage.

To deal with potential issues of GA, researchers developed unique solutions to deal with
potential issues related to code representation, fitness function design and/or solution
generation. For example, Wang et al. (2008) presented a novel coding format of
chromosomes with random bit crossing to solve multi-team weapon target assignment
problem. Fan et al. (2009) used the multi-objective genetic algorithm with a bi-objective
01 programming model for selecting suitable members for facilitating the success of
research and development projects using the individual and collaborative information.
Finally, Azadeh et al., (2009) using integrated GA identified a conventional time series as
the best model for future oil production forecasting because of its dynamic structure,
whereas the previous studies assume that GA always provides the best solutions.

Team member characteristics for a successful team

Different criteria for selecting members to project teams such as functional expertise,
teamwork experience, personal attributes, communication skills, culture, leadership and
motivation through job assignment have been reported (Blackwell, 1986; Bozbura et al.,
2007; Chen and Chen, 2007; Kratzer et al., 2006; Wi et al., 2009). For example, Taylor
(1986) suggested that the optimum team contains members who have the major skills
necessary for the task, are motivated to engage in the task, have adequate time to devote
to the task, have reasonable aptitude for the task, will be engaged long enough to provide
continuity to the task, and will join with a small group to allow intensive, task-focus
interactions. Chung and Guinan (1994) noted that the teams with more experienced
members performed better than those with less experienced members. Allen (1986),
Sundstrom et al. (1990) and Chen and Chen (2007) emphasised organisational structure,
culture and members teamwork experience as important factors for an effective team
construction. Safoutin and Thurston (1993) indicated the importance of communication
in a team by emphasising that most design failures are caused by communication errors at
key decision points. Especially, as team size becomes large, communication errors
usually happen due to the complex links and interactions among team members.
Therefore, Fan et al. (2009) proposed a method for member selection of R&D teams, in which
both the individual information of members and the collaborative information between members
are considered. Since communication error is a central problem for teams, selecting team

A taskmember assignment model for complex engineering projects

members who have better communication skills is essential. Moreover, Hackman (2002)
Boies and Howell (2006) emphasised the role of the team leader and conditions necessary
for a great team performance through project or task execution. Wi et al. (2009) found
that appointing a good leader to the position of team manager and having a competent workers
collaboration as team members is a key to success in business activities of an enterprising
institution. Pearce and Conger (2003) presented a relatively new concept of shared

leadership as a key to success and as a dynamic function that emerges out of the
relationship of people who are bound together by some form of group task or goal in a
team.
Other researchers have also suggested different characteristics for team building
including decision-making skills, conflict resolution abilities, creativity, diversity, team
size, team age, coordination, cohesiveness, organisational structure, socialisation and
technical support (McKee, 1992; Nicholas, 1994). For example, Chien and Chen (2008)
has forecasted the employees performance, turnover, reason of quitting job, etc., by
means of the 2 automatic interaction detection (CHAID) method with eight independent
variables. These are age, gender, marital status, degree, school, major, work experience
and the recruitment channels. To help ensure the quality of team performance, Stinson
(1990) highlighted the need for team member flexibility. To build a successful team,
barriers to the subject matter, the process, as well as the culture issue have to be
avoided (Levi, 2001; Stinson, 1990; Turner, 2000). These barriers seriously impede
project execution due to a lack of expertise, burden of excessive information processing
and deficiency of adaptation to efficient workflows. In addition, there is growing
evidence that the team members must possess both individual task skills and teamwork
skills, in order to perform together successfully (Campion et al., 1993; Converse et al.,
1991; Haque et al., 2000; Logan, 1993; Pawar and Sharifi, 1997; Sharifi and Pawar,
2002).
To organise a successful team where the right team members are selected, Chen and
Lin (2004) developed a team member model that quantifies team member characteristics
into the following categories:
1

Multifunctional knowledge rating: a member who does not work in a certain


functional department may still have a certain level of knowledge of this department.
This will increase the flexibility when a key functional member is needed for a
project team.

Teamwork capability rating: in addition to functional knowledge, team members


must possess teamwork skills in order to work together successfully. Therefore,
teamwork capability of each member is important for organising a successful team.
The following three attributes are related to each members teamwork capability:
a

Teamwork experience: since teams with more experienced members perform


better than those with less experienced members in terms of decision making,
conflict resolution and cooperation, teamwork experience of each member
should be taken into account when selecting the team members.

Communication skills: team members with good communication skills will


put forth agreement among team members and hence improve the team
performance. Thus, selecting team members who have better communication
skills is essential.

L.M. Mazur and S-J. Chen


c

Flexibility in job assignment: since the flexibility and involvement of teamwork


also help ensure the quality of team performance, we should select team
members who are motivated to engage in the task, have adequate time to devote
to the job assignment and have shared leadership in teamwork.

Working relationship rating: in a project team, even with expert members who
possess good teamwork capabilities, if they cannot work along well with one
another, team performance will still be seriously degraded. Thus, it is also important
to understand members personalities as well as their working relationships (Prasad,
1998; Tomal, 1992; Trower and Moore, 1996; Zakarian and Kusiak, 1999).
Personality profiling using MyersBriggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a popular
personality test widely used by both academia and industry, serves as the basis of
assessing each team members abilities to work with others. In MBTI, there are four
groups of personality pairs (Crossley, 1994; Edgley, 1992; Myers, 1980):
a

Extrovert (E) Introvert (I)

Sensing (S) iNtuitive (N)

Thinking (T) Feeling (F)

Judging(J) Perceiving (P).

Every individual owns one preference from each of these four groups in any combination,
which then forms the basis for the 16 personality types. For example, a person may be
identified as INTP, ENTJ, ESFP, INFJ or one of the 12 other possible combinations.
Figure 1 shows four 2 2 tables indicating the positive, neutral and negative relations for
different combinations of personality types (Chen and Lin, 2004). The positive, neutral
and negative relations can each be assigned a numerical scale to show the degrees of how
easy or how hard the two members can work together, when each member completes the
MBTI test and knows which one of the 16 types his or her personality profile belongs to.
Figure 1

Relations between different combinations of personality types

A taskmember assignment model for complex engineering projects

In our model, multifunctional knowledge and teamwork capability ratings are captured
from each member using analytic hierarchy process (AHP) (Chen and Lin, 2004). AHP
has been found effective in transferring qualitative decision measures of competing
decision scenarios into quantitative values via paired comparisons (Saaty, 1980, 1990).
Especially, it has been shown that absolute measurement in AHP is mostly used for
models with a large number of alternatives (Chen and Lin, 2004; Forman and Selly,
2001). Absolute measurements are used to gauge the alternatives against an established
scale and not against each other. In everyday life, we often use such absolute
measurement when measuring distance (e.g. kilometres), volume (e.g. litres) and
temperature (e.g. degree Celsius). Therefore, it is natural using absolute measurement to
derive the new scales even they do not exist. In absolute measurement, instead of
comparing all the members to each other, the following seven verbal intensities are
evaluated by paired comparisons: EXCELLENT (E), VERY GOOD (VG), GOOD (G),
AVERAGE (A), BELOW AVERAGE (BA), POOR (P) and VERY POOR (VP). For
example, how much EXCELLENT is better than POOR on a scale from 1 to 9? These
verbal intensities will then become a set of standard scales (or AHP scores) to help assess
each members ratings of multifunctional knowledge or teamwork capability. Members
in the company will be simply rated as to what intensity they are under the criterion, but
not by paired comparisons that is indeed very hard to do for companies with a large
number of employees.
Nevertheless, creation of effective teams using MBTI should always follow some
specific guidelines. According to Myers and McCaulley (1985), the most effective teams
should have a good combination of personality types. When the identified personality
types can complement each other in cooperative work, the team can enjoy a balance to
becoming a successful team (Lyman and Richter, 1995). Too much opposition makes it
hard for the people to work together well. They claimed that the best teamwork is usually
done by people who differ on one or two preferences to complement each other and have
two or three preferences in common to help them understand and communicate with each
other. They recommended Sensing and iNtuitive types can be useful to each other, as
well as Thinking and Feeling types. This is especially true in teamwork in which a mixed
group of SN and TF members is needed for problem solving and decision making.
Moreover, they also suggested that the people who differ on Judging and Perceiving
preferences will be hard to understand and predict to each other. On the other hand, with
the same type of Judging or Perceiving, people will tend to have common interests since
they share the same kind of perception and to consider the same things important since
they share similar judgement. Therefore, when selecting team members, the above factors
need to be considered. MBTI has been a common battery for personality profiling. This is
evidenced by the fact that approximately over three million people a year complete the
MBTI test; and nearly 40% of such test are applied to team building and management
development in major corporations (Gardner and Martinko, 1996). Since it is often used
as an instrument to explain the effects that personal preferences have on decision-making
and problem solving (Guthrie, 1993), MBTI still continues to be a popular personality
profiling instrument for teamwork in industry.
In addition to the above ratings for team members, each members workload schedule
should be considered, so that the right team member will be selected for the right task at
the right time. The workload schedule of each member represents the utilisation of each
members work hours, expressed as a percentage, throughout the entire project length.
For example, a 75% workload in a members workload schedule indicates that 75% of

L.M. Mazur and S-J. Chen

his/her capacity will be utilised at the time, leaving remaining 25% open for other tasks to
be potentially assigned. In such case, only a task with 25% workload factor (TWF) can be
assigned to this member during that time period. Members who are already occupied up
to their 100% capacity at the time should not be considered for task assignments during
that time period.

The task-member assignment model

To assign the right team member to the right task at the right time for complex
engineering projects, a task-member assignment model using GA is developed in this
section. The model incorporates three important team member characteristics
(i.e. multifunctional knowledge, teamwork capabilities and working relationship) with
quantifiable measures and each members workload schedule. Figure 2 shows GA steps
for the task-member assignment model that are detailed below:
Figure 2

GA steps for the task-member assignment model (see online version for colours)

A taskmember assignment model for complex engineering projects

Generation of the chromosome population: this is to randomly generate the


population of chromosomes which serves as a group of potential candidates for best
solutions.

Chromosomes feasibility check: every chromosome (solution) is checked for


feasibility according to each members workload schedule. For example, if a member
has a workload factor set to 100% during a certain project duration, say period 10,
assigning a task to this member in period 10 will result in an infeasible solution.

Fitness function evaluation: the fitness function Wt-m shown below evaluates the
fitness (or quality) of every chromosome in the population. The fitness function
integrates three quantified team member characteristics: multifunctional knowledge,
teamwork capability (including teamwork experience, communication skills and
flexibility in job assignment) and working relationship. The equation Wb represents
the best possible score for chromosomes. The chromosomes with closer fitness
values to Wb are the better chromosomes.

Wt m =

Wb =

( Kij Kt ) + Tij + Rij,ij

(1 Kt ) + m + {[m! / (m 2)! 2]}

where
Kij = multifunctional knowledge rating of the ith candidate from jth department
Tij = teamwork capability rating of the ith candidate from jth department
Rij,i'j = working relationship rating between the ith candidate from jth department and
the Ith candidate from jth department
Kt = multifunctional knowledge rating threshold required by task t
m = number of members in the team
n = number of teams
t = number of tasks in the entire project
4

Selection of chromosomes: the algorithm uses the tournament selection method. The
major advantage of tournament selection is its ability to protect the algorithm from
premature convergence (Syswerda, 1990). This is done by random chromosome
selection for tournament in which chromosomes with higher fitness values have
greater probability for survival. In every reproduction step, two chromosomes are
selected from a new population generated for tournament selection. The winner of
the tournament is the chromosome with a higher fitness value, Wi, which is then
copied to the next population. Tournament selection then continues until the
population meets a user-defined size.

Reproduction process: multi-points crossing is used for reproduction process in the


algorithm. Multi-points crossing introduces more variability in generating new
chromosomes than single-point crossing. Such variability is desired for solving

10

L.M. Mazur and S-J. Chen


task-member assignments of a complex project where numerous local optimal
solutions may exist. For each randomly selected pair of chromosomes in a
population, the positions of the genes to cross are selected according to the following
conditions:

L p > 0.5 Stay


L p 0.5 Cross
where Lp = generated random number for crossing probability
6

Population improvement check: to check for the chromosome (solution)


improvement within a population, the current best chromosome Wt-m** is multiplied
by a user-defined threshold value Z1 (from 0 to 1) that decreases the fitness value of
the current best chromosome to prevent the algorithm from reaching a local
optimum. For example, if Z1 is equal to 0.7, any chromosomes from a new iteration
scoring higher than 70% of the current best chromosome will cause the algorithm to
go to the next iteration to search for better chromosomes within the same population.
If there is no chromosome scoring above 70%, the algorithm will proceed to the next
generation.
Wt m** Z 1 > Wt m*
where
Wt-m** = the current best chromosome
Wt-m* = the best chromosome from a new iteration in the same population
Z1 = a user-defined threshold value (from 0 to 1)

Selection of the best solution: the chromosome with the highest fitness value is
selected and saved as the global best chromosome.

Check for stoppage conditions: there are three stoppage conditions in the
algorithm. Firstly, the stoppage occurs if there is no further improvement in the
fitness function for a certain number of generations (e.g. 10% of the maximum
number of generations pre-defined by the users). Secondly, the algorithm stops after
a pre-defined maximum number of generations. Thirdly, the stoppage also occurs if
the fitness value of the global best chromosome Wt-m*** is higher than the best
possible chromosome Wb times a user-defined threshold value Z2 (from 0 to 1). For
example, assigning 0.8 to Z2 means that any chromosome with fitness value higher
than 80% of the best possible chromosome is accepted as the final and best solution.
Wb Z 2 > Wt m***
where
Wb = the best possible chromosome
Wt-m*** = the global best chromosome
Z2 = a user defined threshold value (from 0 to 1)

A taskmember assignment model for complex engineering projects

11

An illustrative example

To demonstrate the effectiveness of the research model, an hypothetical engineering


project with 27 tasks and with 42 members and 13 functional departments is used.
Figure 3 shows the task flow of this project, which is divided into 20 project periods. The
company designs, manufactures and distributes different types of industrial and
commercial furnaces.
Tables 13 show the ratings of three important team member characteristics
(i.e. multifunctional knowledge, teamwork capability and working relationship) for 42
members in the company based on the methods by Chen and Lin (2004). In Table 1, the
corresponding multifunctional knowledge ratings (or AHP scores) to seven verbal
intensities are: EXCELLENT (E) = 1.000, VERY GOOD (VG) = 0.654, GOOD
(G) = 0.448, AVERAGE (A) = 0.257, BELOW AVERAGE (BA) = 0.162, POOR
(P) = 0.109 and VERY POOR (VP) = 0.074. In Table 2, each members normalised
teamwork capability rating is obtained by evaluating their teamwork experience (C1),
communications skills (C2) and flexibility in job assignment (C3) using seven verbal
intensities, which are then converted into the corresponding AHP scores. After taking the
MBTI test, each member knows his/her personality type that is shown on the left column
of Table 3. The 16 16 matrix on the right side of Table 3 indicates working relationship
ratings for different combinations of MBTI personality types. For example, the
personality type of member 10 is ESTJ and member 19 is INFP, so that their working
relationship rating is 0.50.
Figure 3

The project task flow

Table 1

Multifunctional knowledge rating


D1

M1

M2

VG

M3

D2

D3

D4

D5

D6

D7

D8

D9

D10

VG
VG
E

VG

M4

M5

VG

M6

VG

VG

M7

VP

M8

VG

M9

D11

E
VG

D12

D13

12

L.M. Mazur and S-J. Chen

Table 1

Multifunctional knowledge rating (continued)


D1

D2

M10

D3

D4

D5

D6

D7

D8

D9

VG

D10

D11

D12

D13

M11

VG

M12

M13

M14

VG

M15

VG

VP

VP

M16

VG

M17

VG

M18

VG

VP

M19

M20

VP

M21

VG

M22

M23

M24

M25

VG

M26

VG

M27

M28

M29

M30

VG

M31

M32
M33
M34

VG

VP

VG

VG

VG

M35

VG

E
VG

M36

M37

M38

M39

VG

M40

M41

M42
Note: EXCELLENT (E), VERY GOOD (VG), GOOD (G), AVERAGE (A), BELOW
AVERAGE (BA), POOR (P) and VERY POOR (VP).

A taskmember assignment model for complex engineering projects


Table 2
M1
M2
M3
M4
M5
M6
M7
M8
M9
M10
M11
M12
M13
M14
M15
M16
M17
M18
M19
M20
M21
M22
M23
M24
M25
M26
M27
M28
M29
M30
M31
M32
M33
M34
M35
M36
M37
M38
M39
M40
M41
M42

13

Teamwork capability rating (TCR)


C1
E
G
E
VG
A
E
G
E
VG
BA
E
E
E
BA
VG
E
A
E
E
VG
VG
G
G
A
G
G
G
VG
E
E
E
E
G
G
VG
A
E
VG
VG
E
VG
E

C2
VG
VG
E
VG
G
E
E
E
VG
G
E
E
VG
G
VG
E
A
VG
E
VG
E
VG
A
E
VG
VG
VG
VG
VG
VG
VG
G
G
E
E
E
E
E
VG
E
E
E

C3
G
E
E
VG
A
E
E
E
G
E
VG
E
VG
BA
VG
E
A
E
E
E
VG
G
VG
E
E
E
A
VG
E
E
VG
VG
VG
E
E
VG
E
VG
VG
VG
VG
E

TCR
0.2299
0.2299
0.3665
0.2517
0.1227
0.3665
0.2687
0.3665
0.2345
0.1383
0.3519
0.3665
0.3131
0.0991
0.2517
0.3665
0.0970
0.3277
0.3665
0.2663
0.2905
0.1980
0.1487
0.2347
0.2299
0.2299
0.1975
0.2517
0.3277
0.3277
0.3131
0.2723
0.1745
0.2687
0.3051
0.2201
0.3665
0.2905
0.2517
0.3519
0.2905
0.3665

TCR (normalised)
0.8074
0.6273
1.0000
0.6868
0.3348
1.0000
0.7332
1.0000
0.6398
0.3774
0.9602
1.0000
0.8543
0.2704
0.6868
1.0000
0.2647
0.8941
1.0000
0.7266
0.7926
0.5402
0.4057
0.6404
0.6273
0.6273
0.5389
0.6868
0.8941
0.8941
0.8543
0.7430
0.4761
0.7332
0.8325
0.6005
1.0000
0.7926
0.6868
0.9602
0.7926
1.0000

Note: EXCELLENT (E), VERY GOOD (VG), GOOD (G), AVERAGE (A), BELOW
AVERAGE (BA), POOR (P) and VERY POOR (VP).

14
Table 3

L.M. Mazur and S-J. Chen


Working relationship rating
E

M10, M20

ESTJ 0.67

M2, M11,
M21, M31

ESTP 0.33 0.67

M13, M33

ESFJ 0.83 0.50 0.67

M4, M14,
M24, M34

ESFP 0.50 0.83 0.33 0.67

M5, M15,
M25, M35

ENTJ 0.83 0.50 1.00 0.67 0.67

M6, M26

ENTP 0.50 0.83 0.67 1.00 0.33 0.67

M7, M27,
M37

ENFJ 1.00 0.67 0.83 0.50 0.83 0.50 0.67

M8, M18

ENFP 0.67 1.00 0.50 0.83 0.50 0.83 0.33 0.67

M9, M29,
M39

ISTJ

0.50 0.17 0.67 0.33 0.67 0.33 0.83 0.50 0.33

M32, M40

ISTP

0.17 0.50 0.33 0.67 0.33 0.67 0.50 0.83 0.00 0.33

M1, M30

ISFJ

0.67 0.33 0.50 0.17 0.83 0.50 0.67 0.33 0.50 0.17 0.33

M12, M17

ISFP

0.33 0.67 0.17 0.50 0.50 0.83 0.33 0.67 0.17 0.50 0.00 0.33

M3, M23

INTJ

0.67 0.33 0.83 0.50 0.50 0.17 0.67 0.33 0.50 0.17 0.67 0.33 0.33

M16, M36

INTP 0.33 0.67 0.50 0.83 0.17 0.50 0.33 0.67 0.17 0.50 0.33 0.67 0.00 0.33

M22, M28, INFJ


M38

0.83 0.50 0.67 0.33 0.67 0.33 0.50 0.17 0.67 0.33 0.50 0.17 0.50 0.17 0.33

M19, M41, INFP 0.50 0.83 0.33 0.67 0.33 0.67 0.17 0.50 0.33 0.67 0.17 0.50 0.17 0.50 0.00 0.33
M42

Note: Extrovert (E), Introvert (I), Sensing (S), iNtuitive (N), Thinking (T), Feeling (F),
Judging(J) and Perceiving (P).

Table 4 shows the workload schedule of 42 members during 20 periods of project length.
For example, member 2 will not be available in periods 5, 8 and 10 because his/her
workload or capacity in those three periods are 100% occupied. In addition, member 2
will be partially available in period 18 (50%) and period 19 (25%).
Table 5 shows the results of task-member assignments for the 27-task project
example. Task workload factor (TWF), minimum knowledge rating (Kt) required for each
task and the functional department(s) responsible for completing each task are entered by
the project manager before GA starts task-member assignments. For example, task 5 has
its workload factor set to 400% meaning that it will require 4 different members (from
departments 7, 12, 6 and 3, respectively) with each committing 100% capacity. In
addition, the minimum knowledge rating required for task 5 is 1.000 (E), so that only
expert members with 1.000 knowledge rating from departments 7, 12, 6 and 3 are
qualified for the assignment to task 5. The following GA parameters are chosen: number
of generations = 1000, number of populations = 100, Z1 = 0.9 and Z2 = 0.9.

100%

100%

M10

M11

M14

M13

45%

100%

M9

M12

100% 100%

100%

M8

100%

50%

100%

100%

M7

100%

100% 100%

100%

M6

100%

100%

100%

M4

75%

M5

100%

M3

25%

50%

100%

100%

75%

75%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

10

11

50%

12

50%

13

14

16

100%

100% 100%

100% 100%

100% 100%

100% 100%

100%

15

100%

17

19

100%

50% 50%

50% 75%

18

20

Table 4

M2

M1

A taskmember assignment model for complex engineering projects


15

Members workload schedule

10

100%
100%

M28

100%

M27

M26

25% 25%

100%

100%

100%

M25

100%

M24

80%

75% 75% 75%

50%

100%

80%

50%

M23

M22

M21

M20

25%

75%

M18

M19

10%

M17

35%

75%

50%

12

100%

75%

25%

13

100% 100%

100% 100%

100% 100% 100%

100% 100% 100%

11

14

100%

100%

100%

100%

15

16

35%

65%

100%

17

18

19

20

Table 4

M16

M15

16
L.M. Mazur and S-J. Chen

Members workload schedule (continued)

M42

M41

M40

M39

M38

M37

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

M35

M36

100% 100%

M34

10

75%

50%

75% 75% 50%

100%

100%

100% 100%

M33

100%

100% 100%

100%

M32

100%

11

12

50%

75%

50%

100%

13

100%

100%

14

100%

100%

15

50%

16

60%

65%

17

18

100%

100%

19

20

Table 4

M31

100%

100% 100% 100% 100%

M30

3
100%

M29

A taskmember assignment model for complex engineering projects


17

Members workload schedule (continued)

18
Table 5
Task
number

L.M. Mazur and S-J. Chen


Results of task-member assignments
Task description

Task
relationship

TWF

Kt

Department

Member

T1

Business offer
Proposition

100%

0.654 (VG)

32

T2

Order specification
analysis for
production Feasibility

300%

0.654 (VG)

T3

Technical concept
proposition

100%

0.654 (VG)

32

T4

Price evaluation

100%

0.449 (G)

36

T5

Project initiation

6, 7

400%

1.000 (E)

7 12

T6

Project design
documentation

100%

1.000 (E)

T7

Project components
documentation

11

100%

0.654 (VG)

T8

Project specification
Check/changes

9, 10

200%

0.449 (G)

4 11

T9

User manual
documentation

200%

0.449 (G)

T10

Past experience
technology
Consultation

11

200%

1.000 (E)

37 38

T11

Technology
documentation

12, 16

200%

0.654 (VG) 12 12

39 40

T12

Evaluation/selection
of procurement
partners

13

200%

0.449 (G)

T13

Material procurement
ordering

14

100%

0.654 (VG)

T14

Material procurement
Receiving

15, 18

200%

0.654 (VG)

T15

Project material
evaluation/specificati
on Changes

100%

0.654 (VG)

11

T16

Evaluation/selection
of supply chain
management partners

17

100%

1.000 (E)

11

38

T17

Detail analysis of
supply chain
management value
proposition

19

100%

0.654 (VG) 11

T18

Detail analysis of
firms value
proposition

19

100%

1.000 (E)

T19

Assembly of furnace
subparts

20

400%

1.000 (E)

2 10

20 40

31

19 11

31 36

31
5

14 15

22

22 23

24 29

A taskmember assignment model for complex engineering projects


Table 5
Task
number

19

Results of task-member assignments (continued)


Task description

Task
relationship

TWF

Kt

21

400%

0.449 (G)

1.000 (E)

8 10

22 23

0.654 (VG) 10 10

31 34

Department
8

T20

Assembly of main
furnace part

T21

Final assembly

22

200%

T22

Final testing

23

200%

T23

disassembly and
painting

24

300%

T24

Transportation

25

200%

T25

Assembly over the


customer site

26

400%

T26

Furnace assembly
inspection

27

100%

1.000 (E)

10

36

T27

Final meeting

100%

1.000 (E)

13

42

1.000 (E)

1.000 (E)

Member

0.654 (VG) 10 10 10 10

22 23

22 23

27 28

24

12 15
31 34

35 36

The manager can manually cross-check the feasibility of members with respect to their
workload schedules and multifunctional knowledge ratings. For example, in Table 5, task
2 (Order Specification Analysis for Production Feasibility) is set at 300% workload factor
(TWF) in project period 2 (see the project task flow in Figure 3) with 0.654 (VG) minimum
knowledge rating requirement from departments 3, 2 and 10. It can be easily checked
from Tables 1 and 4 that all the members assigned (members 6, 7 and 31) meet the
requirements of workload schedule and multifunctional knowledge rating. For instance,
member 6 has 0.654 (VG) multifunctional knowledge rating in department 3 and his/her
schedule is 100% available in project period 2. The task-member assignment solution can
also be cross-checked using teamwork capability and working relationship ratings in
Tables 2 and 3. For example, members 6, 7 and 31, who are assigned to task 2, all have
high teamwork capability ratings: 1.0000, 0.7332 and 0.8540, respectively. The working
relationship ratings are 0.5 between members 6 and 7 (ENTP ENFJ), 0.83 between
members 6 and 31 (ENTP ESTP) and 0.67 between members 7 and 31 (ENFJ ESTP).
However, finding the best solution of task-member assignments by cross-checking the
members teamwork capability and working relationship ratings could be a long and
tedious process, if attempted manually. Even in a project with one task requesting two
members to work on it, if there were ten qualified and available members under
10

consideration, it would take the manager to evaluate or 45 possible combinations


2
for reaching the solution. Our task-member assignment model using GA is capable of
comparing hundreds of thousands of solutions in a relatively short time to provide the
managers with at least a very good solution for team building.

Conclusions

This research tackles one important, yet largely ignored issue in project management:
how to assign the right team members to the right tasks at the right time for complex
projects? Complex engineering projects with a large number of tasks usually require

20

L.M. Mazur and S-J. Chen

expertise from various functional departments. The decisions of task-member assignment


should be based on valid and reliable information with good decision support rules and
systems, so that optimal or at least very good solution(s) can be obtained. The
quantitative representation of three important team member characteristics makes it
possible to establish a successful team considering the quantitative ratings of individual
member expertise, teamwork capability and their collegiality. For effective human
resource management, increasingly more companies maintain employees performance,
knowledge, skills, experience, interests and relevant personal characteristics in a
computerised data bank, called a skill inventory or a knowledge bank (Chen and Lin,
2004). In order to assess a team members multifunctional knowledge and teamwork
capability objectively, this skill inventory can serve as a useful data source for managers.
MyersBriggs Type Indicator (MBTI), if skillfully used, can be used in assessing the
working relationship rating between team members. The information of each members
personality type using MBTI can also be kept in the similar data bank for human resource
management that can help managers in assessing the working relationship among team
members. With quantifiable measures of important team member characteristics, the
management can organise teams with members who not only have domain expertise in
their functional area, but also are capable of teamwork skills and enjoy a good working
relationship with their colleagues. Finally, the task-member assignment model
considering each members workload schedule accomplishes the ultimate research goal
of this paper: assigning the right team members to the right tasks at the right time.
Certain limitations of this research and implications to practitioners and researchers
should be noted, as they also lead to interesting aspects of future research:
1

While this research provides a method for task-member assignments in complex


project, it does not consider the possibility of multi-project and multi-organisation
environment. In reality, teams are often required to cooperate over space and time,
where members are drawn from different organisations at different locations. For
example, when two or more projects overlap in time and there is a need to recruit
members from different organisations, what would be the decision to assign a
member to a task in project A rather than to another task in project B? The model
should be extended for such cases. To accomplish this, team member characteristics
regarding virtual cooperation as well as project importance level should be taken into
account. Thus, assigning the right member to the right task at the right time in virtual
as well as multi-project and multi-organisation environment can be realised.

The number of teams in a project and the number of members in a team influence
cooperation quality. We assume that the number of teams and members (or the task
workload factor, TWF), the minimum knowledge level (Kt) and the type of functional
expertise required from each member are known. However, we understand that these
data may not be easy to assess or collect, so that future research can extend the
model to estimate the optimal number of teams and members as well as the required
knowledge rating for a given task.

The number of different assignments that one member is able to cope simultaneously
can potentially degrade his/her overall performance. In our model, we have tried to
protect the members from such issue by allowing each fellow to be assigned up to
his/her 100% capabilities with respect to time, assuming that the task workload
factor TWF is set appropriately. We also realise that four simultaneous tasks with

A taskmember assignment model for complex engineering projects

21

25% TWF each may be more difficult for a member to handle than one task with
100% TWF due to organisational structure and/or technology support. Therefore,
establishing an appropriate limit of simultaneous task assignments to a member
should improve the project execution.
4

Without reliable and accurate data, the results from our model would be like
garbage in, garbage out, which can lead to poor project execution and outcomes.
Therefore, the managers should note that it is important to obtain reliable and
accurate data for the model including each members multifunctional knowledge
rating (Kij), teamwork capability rating (Tij), working relationship rating (Rij,i'j) and
workload schedule as well as each tasks minimum knowledge rating (Kt) and
workload factor (TWF). For example, using inaccurate multifunctional knowledge
rating (Kij) data can result in assigning tasks to either under or over qualified
members that consequently leads to poor outcomes, rework or high cost for task
execution.

It should be noted that MBTI can truly enhance team effectiveness and improve
personnel management, only if skillfully used. For example, using repertory grid as a
methodology, Rigg and Sparrow (1994) provided evidence for significant differences
in gender on management styles including overall style, decision-making and
interpersonal relationship. Smith (1999) found that the direct and moderating
influences of MBTI on various performance measures were very often not
significant. He tested a variety of personality types and cognitive styles and found no
significant influences of MBTI measures, nether on information processing
behaviour nor on performance. Therefore, the argument can be made that if MBTI
measures are not valid predictors of behaviours, then it is also very unlikely that they
influence interactions. Our assumptions with respect to team member characteristics
have been derived based on the literature review as well as case studies from
industry. In general, MBTI suggests that knowing ones own preferences and
learning about the preferences of others help individuals to identify their special
strengths, to determine the kinds of work they will enjoy and to work more
productively with their colleagues. MBTI has been, and continues to be, a popular
tool for researchers and has been applied in numerous personal and organisational
settings to examine group interactions. However, we need to emphasise that only
skilful use of MBTI can enhance team effectiveness and improve personnel
management. Since MBTI is used in the paper as the basis for understanding each
team members personality and their potential working relationship in a team, the
readers are cautioned not to treat the MBTI personalities as stereotypes without
discretion. For example, factors like gender, different populations, environment, etc.
should be considered while using MBTI.

Our task-member assignment model does not take into account various factors on the
management level (i.e. leadership, conflict resolution, decision-making skills,
Hackmans team design model, etc.), which can influence team cooperation with
respect to project management. The managers should note that our model is flexible
and is able to include these management-level factors to fit their needs and
preferences. For example, decision-making, conflict resolution and cooperation skills
can be sub-factors under teamwork experience and leadership can be a sub-factor
under flexibility in job assignment.

22
7

L.M. Mazur and S-J. Chen


The use of heuristics with GA has been proved to be very effective in solving the
similar type of NP-hard problems (i.e. project task sequencing and scheduling). In
this paper, we have no intention to suggest that GA is the best approach for solving
the task-member assignment problems, but we believe it is a very good one and no
model has the potential to provide a strong base for task-member assignment in
project management. Other computerised problem-solving techniques or heuristics
(i.e. calculus-based algorithms, enumerative methods, random methods, hillclimbing methods, simulated annealing, tabu search and neural network, etc.) could
also be applied to this problem. For example, Azizi et al. (2009) compared their new
hybrid simulated annealing algorithm tailored for flow shop scheduling with other
techniques including a conventional simulated annealing, a standard genetic
algorithm and a hybrid genetic algorithm. The computational results clearly indicate
that the proposed algorithm is much more efficient than the conventional heuristics.
Therefore, future research can compare the computational performance of GA with
these other methods.

Acknowledgements
We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers and the editor for their valuable comments
and suggestions.

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