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How to Specify Team Member Roles and Procedures

6 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Managing a Project Team

An effective project manager needs to specify team-member roles and communication procedures. After all, nothing causes disillusionment and frustration faster on a project than bringing motivated people together and then giving them no guidance on working with one another.

Two or more people may start doing the same activity independently, and other activities may be overlooked entirely. Eventually, these people find tasks that don’t require coordination, or they gradually withdraw from the project to work on more rewarding assignments. To prevent this frustration from becoming a part of your project, work with team members to define the activities that each member works on and the nature of their roles.

Possible team member roles include the following:

  • Primary responsibility: Has the overall obligation to ensure the completion of an activity

  • Secondary or supporting responsibility: Has the obligation to complete part of an activity

  • Approval: Must approve the results of an activity before work can proceed

  • Consultation resource: Can provide expert guidance and support if needed

  • Required recipient of project results: Receives either a physical product from an activity or a report of an activity

If you prepared a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) as part of your project plan, use it to start your discussions of project roles with your team members. Make sure you don’t just present the RAM; take the time to encourage questions and concerns from team members until they’re comfortable that the roles are feasible and appropriate.

Develop the procedures that you and your team will use to support your day-to-day work. Having these procedures in place allows people to effectively and efficiently perform their tasks; it also contributes to a positive team atmosphere. At a minimum, develop procedures for the following:

  • Communication: These processes involve sharing project-related information in writing and through personal interactions. Communication procedures may include

    • When and how to use e-mail to share project information

    • Which types of information should be in writing

    • When and how to document informal discussions

    • How to set up regularly scheduled reports and meetings to record and review progress

    • How to address special issues that arise

  • Conflict resolution: These processes involve resolving differences of opinion between team members regarding project work. You can develop the following conflict-resolution procedures:

    • Standard approaches (normal steps that you take to encourage people to develop a mutually agreeable solution)

    • Escalation procedures (steps you take if the people involved can’t readily resolve their differences)

  • Decision making: These processes involve deciding among alternative approaches and actions. Develop guidelines for choosing the most appropriate choice for a situation, including consensus, majority rule, unanimous agreement, and decision by technical expert. Also develop escalation procedures — the steps you take when the normal decision-making approaches get bogged down.

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