It’s challenging to stick to a project plan without clear roles and responsibilities. When you define team roles, you can help teammates collaborate and work through projects more efficiently. In this guide, we’ll explain how to establish roles and responsibilities and why doing so will benefit your team.
You know that chaotic feeling of managing a project where roles and responsibilities are unclear? As one team member moves forward with the design, another moves forward with content. Both team members write the copy included in the images, assuming this is part of their role. Because of the miscommunication and duplicated work, the copy takes longer to deliver and you must delay the project.
It’s challenging to stick to a project plan without clear roles and responsibilities. When you define team roles, you can help teammates collaborate and work through projects more efficiently. As a manager, it’s important to clarify specific tasks for each team member early on in a project if you hope to improve team productivity.
In this guide, we’ll explain how to establish roles and responsibilities and why doing so will benefit your team.
You can use the following steps when identifying roles and responsibilities at both the organizational and project level. The first step when defining team roles is to determine the various tasks that need to get done. Some questions you can ask to identify these tasks include:
Were past projects completed successfully?
If not, what could have been done better?
What tasks are still on your team’s to-do list?
What tasks does each team member complete daily?
Are these tasks part of each team member’s job description?
While this step is most relevant when defining roles at the organizational level, you may also have gaps in responsibilities when working on projects.
After creating your to-do list, compare and contrast these tasks with what team members are doing. This comparison will help you identify any gaps in responsibilities. These gaps may occur unintentionally if team members’ original job description is unclear or if they get pulled into other tasks by others.
When you identify gaps in responsibilities, these gaps become your starting point for team realignment. You can then move team members back to their intended roles and figure out who should take over any additional tasks they were handling.
A RACI matrix is a great tool for clarifying team member roles. RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. You can set up a RACI matrix—or a table—with your tasks on the Y-axis and your team members on the X-axis.
Assign one of the four RACI letters to each task and team member. This makes it easy for team members to know what their specific role is for each task.
The legend below explains in greater detail what team roles work best with each letter of the RACI chart.
R = Responsible. This person performs the work. There should only ever be one Responsible per task, so everyone on the team knows who to go with for questions and updates.
A = Accountable. This person is responsible for approving the work and will likely be a manager.
C = Consulted. This person should give input on the work. This could be a team member or someone on another team.
I = Informed. This person should be informed of the progress and the outcome of the work, but they don’t give input on the work as it’s being performed.
Additional tips for the RACI matrix:
There should only ever be one Responsible per task (R) so team members know who is in charge of the work. If a task has more than one Responsible, team members can easily become confused.
While only one person should be accountable for each task (A), that same person can also be Responsible for the task (AR).
It’s also important to limit the number of people you inform, as this can make your project unnecessarily complex (keep I’s low).
You can use a RACI matrix to set clear expectations for your team members and as a reference when executing projects.
Asking team members for candid feedback after you complete your RACI matrix can encourage team collaboration and provide insight into whether the roles you’ve assigned seem functional.
When your team members can voice their opinions, you create healthy team dynamics in the workplace by facilitating communication.
You can ask for feedback in several ways, such as:
Hold a team meeting and ask, “Does anyone have an opinion on the team roles I’ve assigned?”
Schedule 1:1 meetings, so team members have a safe space to voice concerns.
Put out an anonymous survey so team members can share their honest responses.
There are roles and responsibilities at the organizational and the project level. As project manager, your job is to define both for your team at different times. Creating a solid team structure at the organizational level is crucial and should be addressed first if you’re noticing gaps in this area.
For example, if a writer on your team is handling a lot of the project planning, it may be time to refocus their priorities and tasks. If a designer is responding to emails all day, realign your team structure so they have more heads-down time to create.
Once your team knows their roles and responsibilities at the organizational level, you can approach each project individually. A designer may have general duties for their job role, but for a specific project, they may also be responsible for sending designs back and forth.Read: Virtual team: 10 ways to build a collaborative culture
When you establish roles and responsibilities, you create a team structure that’s built to last. Team performance will improve when individuals feel confident in the duties they’re assigned.
When team members have individual roles, the team also benefits in other ways, including:
Increased productivity: You’ll notice an increase in productivity when you assign key responsibilities to each team member. When team members have clarity about their roles and responsibilities, they can prioritize the right work and get their most high-impact work done.
Improve hiring process: When you clarify job responsibilities for different roles, you make it easier for hiring managers to meet team needs when searching for new hires. Without a clear list of responsibilities, it may be difficult for recruiters to explain job roles to candidates.
Boost team morale: When there’s a lack of clarity in what your team members should do, they may feel unsure of their skills. Defining roles and responsibilities can boost team morale because everyone will have a task to accomplish. You can also align team members to work on tasks that complement their natural abilities so they feel confident in what they’re doing each day.
More efficient resources: Your organization will waste less time and money when team members perform the correct job roles. As seen in the example above, two team members who didn’t know their job responsibilities on a project doubled up on work. This duplicate work wasted valuable project time, and as a result, it also wasted money. The more efficient your team is, the leaner the budget and timeline will be.
With clear and concrete team roles, your team members should feel confident and motivated to achieve their responsibilities.
Every role has key responsibilities that fit with that position. When aligned correctly, team members should know their role and only be responsible for tasks that fit under their job role. Take a look at some common roles and the responsibilities these roles may have.
Role: Project manager
Role: Visual designer
Produce consistent visual work
Keep team members up to date with project milestones
Create direction for projects and guiding team members
Role: Content writer
Research and write copy
Communicate with designers and managers on progress
Revise copy after receiving feedback from clients
These responsibilities may change based on the organizational culture, work environment, and abilities of each individual team member. You can make your own job responsibilities template that includes more detail such as who the team member reports to and requirements of the role.Read: Everything you need to know to become a project manager
As team leader, it’s your job to prepare your team members for every project. The best way to create a strong team structure is through open communication. With team communication software, you can meet deadlines and reach team goals by making sure everyone knows their roles and responsibilities, when tasks are due, and where work stands.Try team communication with Asana for free