The Role and Importance of ‘Glue People’ in Projects

This week, Thommie Burström and I got a paper published in the IUP Journal of Soft Skills. The focus of the paper is in Informal Liaisons in projects, and the title is, “The Role and Importance of ‘Glue People’ in Projects”.

To cite the paper: Jacobsson, Mattias and Burström, Thommie (2011), “The Role and Importance of ‘Glue People’ in Projects”, The IUP Journal of Soft Skills, Vol. V, No. 1, pp. 7-15.


The liaison role, which is described as managerial means to achieve coordination amongst different knowledge domains by facilitating communication, has been a subject of extensive interest during the years. Most of this interest has either focused on 1) the liaison position with no decisional authority or formal power, or, 2) the integrating manager, which is a formal position with recognized formal authority. However, limited attention has been given to the ‘glue people’ in organisations. That is, the people who informally performs a liaison role. This paper highlights the importance of such people in projects. Based on a theoretical underpinning of projects as temporary organisations, and the need for project teams to manage interdependent sets of diverse skills and knowledge sets, this paper analyses hands-on project work. The analysis is based on two comprehensive in-depth qualitative case studies focused on the actual everyday work of the project participants. We argue that ‘glue people’ possesses specific soft skills such as: the ability to facilitate communication among professional groups, create commitment, and reduce uncertainty. The paper concludes that ‘glue people’ share some characteristics of formal liaisons and integrating managers, but that new novel explanations for understanding ‘glue people’ are necessary.