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Tiger Team: What is it and How to Create One

Updated on February 26, 2024By

Have you heard the expressions “Houston, we have a problem” and “tiger team?”

Have you wondered what these refer to or where these terms originated?

Well, if you do, then this article is for you. Here, we’ll answer all your questions related to tiger teams—what they are, when to form one, and how to do it.

Let’s get started.

What is a Tiger Team in Business?

A “tiger team” is a business term that refers to a cross-functional team comprising people from various departments who work together to solve a complex issue.

Think of it as pulling out the top brains from different departments and asking them to collaborate on a high-priority project. It’s just like a special task force.

When to Build a Tiger Team

Tiger teams are elite teams of specialists that should be formed to achieve a strategic business goal or solve a critical problem. These are not to be used for day-to-day business operations.

Here are some scenarios that would require a tiger team:

  • When a business needs to find innovative solutions to a tricky problem.
  • In critical situations where quick decisions need to be made to overcome a time-sensitive challenge.
  • In cases where a cross-functional team is required to provide different perspectives to tackle a problem from different angles.
  • When a business needs to solve an issue quickly and discreetly without getting too many stakeholders involved.
  • To minimize risks by involving multiple people in strategic decision-making instead of one person deciding something critical.
  • When all other solutions have failed, and the regular team has not been able to solve a problem successfully.

When deciding whether to form a tiger team or not, assess the urgency and criticality of the issue. If it’s a high-stakes problem that needs to be solved on priority, then forming a tiger team is your best option. 

But if you can dedicate more time to it and it doesn’t have a high impact on your business, you can let your regular teams tackle it.

Evaluate each challenge on a case-by-case basis and then take a call on whether a tiger team is required.

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How to Make a Tiger Team

A tiger team is formed in two ways:

  • A team is created to work solely on one project till it’s completed. Team members are relieved from their day-to-day work responsibilities for the duration of the project.
  • The team collaborates on a special project in addition to their regular work.

But how do you decide when to form a tiger team and whom to include? What is the process you need to follow to create a tiger team for your business?

Here’s a step-by-step process you can follow to create a tiger team for your business.

1. Identify the Problem You Need to Solve

The first step toward creating a team is to identify and define the problem that needs to be solved. Assess the problem from multiple perspectives and various aspects and then determine if it needs a tiger team to be solved.

To analyze a problem and the who, what, where, why, and how questions related to it. Nifty Docs is a great tool to conduct such an analysis. Here is a simple template you can use.

Problem Analysis using Nifty Docs
Problem Analysis using Nifty Docs

Simply answer the questions under each heading to analyze and define your problem. You can easily share Nifty Docs with others and work collaboratively to define possible solutions to the problem by taking inputs from various people affected by the problem.

Once you have a clear idea of what the root cause of problem is, move to the next step.

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2. Clarify the Needed Skills and Experience

Now that you know what the problem is, you need to determine what skills creative solutions are needed to solve it.

Ask yourself:

  • Which departments or teams can provide the best insights to solve this issue?
  • Which skill sets and what level of experience is needed?
  • Who among those teams has the required skills, experience, and expertise to solve the problem?
  • How many members are needed to be a part of the tiger team?

Remember that too many people will delay the decision-making process and defeat the purpose of forming a tiger team. That’s why it’s essential to keep the tiger team consists members limited to those who are essential to solving the problem.

3. Gather the Right People

With the insights gathered in the previous step, you can now gather your team. From each department, choose the person who has the exact skills required to do the job.

Once you’ve assembled your special task force, you need to appoint a team leader.

This doesn’t necessarily need to be the most experienced or senior person, but one who is a good leader and can keep the team together. It should be someone that others are willing to follow.

4. Establish Goals, Objectives, and Scope of the Project

Now that your tiger team is ready to roar, you need to start working on problem-solving. That requires clear goals and objectives and a detailed project scope.

Use the SMART goals framework to create specific goals and identify metrics you will use to track those goals. According to the framework, goals should be:

  • Specific: Goals should not be vague or generic but extremely specific in their wording.
  • Measurable: You should be able to track your performance on your project goals.
  • Attainable: Goals must be realistic and feasible to accomplish within a given time period.
  • Relevant: You should set goals that are relevant to your project and can help you solve the problem at hand.
  • Time-Bound: There should be a clear deadline for achieving your goals.

Here’s an example of how it will look in a Goal management app like Nifty:

SMART Goals set in Nifty as a part of creating Tiger Team
SMART Goals set in Nifty’s Goal maker

Create a scope for your project, including the following:

You can add more details apart from these essentials. Once this is done, you need to allocate tasks and create project milestones. 

You can use Nifty Milestones to create a project, add tasks, assign them to various team members, and add milestones with clear timelines.

Here’s a simple example of milestones for a project.

5. Provide Resources and Support When Needed

Your tiger team is now ready to start working on the project and solve the problem at hand. But your job is not done yet. You need to make sure you stay on top of things and communicate with the team regularly.

Ask them if they need any help or resources to do their jobs effectively.

Use a good internal communication tool to provide an easy communication channel for team members.

You should also use good task management software like Nifty to streamline the process and make task allocation and tracking easier. 

Who Should Be on Your Tiger Team?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer for this. Who you add to a tiger team depends entirely on what problem you’re trying to solve and what skills you’re looking for.

However, certain characteristics make a person fit to be in a tiger team. Here are some characteristics of great team members:

  • They are experts in their niche and have a specific skill set. These are highly trained people with unmatched skills in their respective areas of expertise.
  • They are agile and can quickly adapt to different work environments and adjust their approach when needed.
  • They are team players who can effectively work with others to achieve a common goal. They are open to ideas and believe in collaboration and teamwork.
  • They are perseverant and tenacious and do not quit when things get tough.
  • They are innovators and problem solvers with the capacity and open mind to look at things from different perspectives.

When forming a tiger team, make sure you bring in people from a diverse set of backgrounds. The specifics will vary depending on your requirements and why the team is being formed.

Tiger Team Best Practices

The success or failure of tiger teams depends on how well a project is planned and executed. While forming a tiger team with the right group of people is the first step, it doesn’t guarantee success.

So, what can you do to ensure that your tiger team approach is successful in achieving the desired outcomes?

Follow these tiger team best practices to improve your team’s chances of success.

1. Establish Clear Goals

Setting clear goals is crucial to the success of any initiative, and tiger team projects are no different.

Be specific on what you want to achieve and identify metrics to measure your team’s performance on the project goals. Use Nifty’s SMART goals template to set specific goals.

Here’s what it looks like:

Set clear timelines for your project and mention the deliverables you expect at the end of the project.

If everyone is on the same page on what’s expected and who’s responsible for what, you will get better results.

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2. Give Your Team a Dedicated Space

A tiger team is formed to work on a critical project dedicatedly. So, you need to provide a dedicated workspace for them to collaborate and brainstorm. 

This should be an area separate from other teams and one where the most effective tiger team will not be disturbed. This can be a meeting room that you book for the entire duration of the project for your tiger team.

3. Foster Collaboration

The success of your project will depend on how well your tiger team members collaborate on various tasks and have healthy discussions.

It’s the responsibility of the team leader to create an open and safe environment where new ideas, no matter how unusual, are welcome. A collaborative environment is the breeding ground for innovation, so train your team members and leader to foster one.

4. Ensure Focus

To ensure that the team members don’t get distracted, allocate specific tasks and make each team member accountable for a part of the project. Set clear expectations and deadlines to keep them focussed on their roles within the team.

If your tiger team is working on their regular projects in addition to the tiger team project, use calendars to schedule dedicated times for tiger-team-related work.

5. Give Them the Right Resources

Equip your team with the best technology, tools, and resources they need to do their jobs effectively. This also includes best-in-class software and hardware to ensure they don’t lag because of a lack of resources.

As previously mentioned, it’s also important to provide them with an easy way to communicate and collaborate. Internal communication software like Slack and collaborative project management tools like Nifty are useful for this purpose.

6. Evaluate Progress

Consistently track progress and seek regular status updates from the tiger team members. Continually evaluate performance to identify any potential problems and address them before they become big issues.

Consistent monitoring also helps you assess if things aren’t working and optimize your strategy or modify your approach.

Nifty’s project roadmaps can help with this. You can see all the tasks in the pipeline and their current status. It also helps you see who is responsible for each task so you can reach out to them and follow up when required.

7. Celebrate Successes!

One of the most important best practices you must follow is to celebrate each milestone and success. This helps build morale and keep your team members motivated when tacking with high-stakes problems.

Give credit where credit is due. Recognize people’s contributions to the project and appreciate them publicly. Once a tiger team has successfully completed a project, you can create a case study or success story and share it with other teams.

Let Your Tiger Teams Reach New Heights with Nifty 

We’ve well established the importance of tiger teams in business and the impact they can make. As such, if you equip your team with a great project management tool, they can achieve unprecedented success.

Nifty, for example, can help with every aspect of project planning and execution. From setting goals to ensuring the timely execution of tasks, you can easily manage your projects using Nifty.

Its project roadmap and milestones features are especially useful in helping you keep track of various tasks and get a quick visual overview of everything in the pipeline.

Want to make project management simpler for your tiger team? Try Nifty for free and explore all that it has to offer and decide if it’s right for you.


Why is it called a tiger team?

The term comes from a research paper titled “Program Management in Design and Development” and was originally a military expression. It became popular after NASA assembled a “Tiger Team” to deal with a catastrophic issue during the Apollo 13 mission. 

The team succeeded in its mission and was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Since then, the term has been widely adopted by businesses to refer to specialized task forces or teams formed to solve various critical issues or business problems.

What is a tiger team in business jargon?

A tiger team in business is a cross-functional team formed for an organization with the sole purpose of solving a specific problem or achieving a particular goal. It comprises members from different departments and with specific skill sets who are perfect to tackle a particular challenge.

What is an example of a tiger team?

The tiger team formed by NASA during the Apollo 13 mission is the most famous example of a tiger team. The team was responsible for bringing people back alive from the mission despite a critical oxygen shortage.

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