We’ve just finished a project retrospective for a website launch. One of the strong themes of the team discussion was the clarity of roles. Getting the roles, responsibilities and relationships right in a project can make a world of difference for the team that you’re working with.

Circumstances have meant that we’ve had several people leave and join recently; onboarding new people has highlighted where there were some ‘unspoken (stealth) assumptions’ in operation, so we’re doing the work to rebuild better clarity and understanding across the team. This is a large project that has been in the works for a while. We’ve moved from the initial, intense discovery and definition phase to a way of working that’s all about optimisation and repeating what we’ve done (only better).

Naturally, with this shift in cadence, the skills and roles required a shift in nature. The initial deep thinking and questioning process workshops have been replaced with review sessions that focus on greater accuracy, improving the velocity of delivery.

Why Do We Add ‘Relationships’ to Roles and Responsibilities?

Well, there are many moving parts in a large-scale software project. Having multiple people communicate with one vendor can result in confusing messages, wasting time and energy clarifying what’s really meant. The discipline of having one person on the client side to communicate means that the client team need to align before talking to the vendor.

Roles: In your project team, everyday roles are not the same as project roles. Particularly people who are subject matter experts. Typically, they have a job that is critical to the organisation, and their intimate knowledge of how a process or team functions is the value they bring to the project team. The project manager’s responsibility is to ensure that each team member’s role is clearly defined, including their responsibilities and key tasks. Adding relationships highlights how each role interacts with others on the core project team and the broader stakeholder groups.

Responsibilities: Clear responsibilities help ensure that tasks are completed on time and to the required standard. Project teams should know who is responsible for specific tasks and the timing for tasks to be completed. Adding relationships to this aspect helps team members understand who depends on them for a related task or where we need to collaborate.

Relationships: Building positive relationships between core project team members is essential for effective collaboration. Clients who agree on how team members will communicate with each other and how they will manage conflicts and make decisions during the project are prepared for bumps along the road when they occur.

Relationships with vendors and between vendors should also be defined. Experience teaches us that if we can foster positive working relationships between vendors without needing to be in the middle of every conversation, it empowers these people to figure out solutions and share information with one another, which better serves the project objectives.

Should We Review Roles Throughout the Project?

Absolutely! Roles and responsibilities should be revisited at key points throughout the project lifecycle. The roles required at the beginning of a new project are not the same as those required for a project that’s been ‘done before’. A project with custom new development is not the same as one that requires configuration.

At the beginning

Starting the project strong with clear expectations of the role (value) each team member brings to the table sets your project team up well. Resetting expectations and aligning at points through the project lifecycle ensures your team avoid the missteps of misconstrued roles.

At the point of User Testing

In preparation for user testing, we often add new people into the mix. Those outside the core project team who may not be as intimately involved are required to play a role. This is a good time to review and reset roles, responsibilities and relationships. It’s a specific phase for the client where they finally get to see their finished product – being clear with new people about what we’re doing and how to do it allows core project team members to shift gears and move into teaching and mentoring mode.

As the project becomes Operationalised

As the project moves toward go live, the preparation for handover to operational teams begins. Again, the project team would typically engage more deeply in training, testing and handover activities to ‘stick’ the landing of the project and ensure that operational teams are comfortable with the new tools and processes. Revisiting roles, responsibilities and relationships during this phase of the project allows the opportunity to complete project tasks and move responsibility for ongoing operations to business users.

Foundations roles that you need on your project. Some time back, we looked at the foundation roles that ground an internal project team. Visionaries, technical experts, business experts and project managers (or coordinators if your project is smaller) are the starting point for a mid-sized project.

It should not need to be said, but sadly we do still see it. Just because someone has capacity doesn’t mean they are the right skills and fit for your project; there are some behaviour observations in the foundation roles post to guide you on teams that work well. Don’t be tempted to add people who are just ‘available’. Usually, they’re available for a reason.

Clear roles, responsibilities, and relationships are vital to the success of any project. At 6R Retail, we understand the importance of effective project management and how it can impact the success of your business. We are dedicated to helping our clients achieve their strategic objectives through effective change management and vendor management.

If you need help with system implementation, business improvement strategy, or leading change within your organization, we are here to support you.

Contact us today to learn how we can help.