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If there was only one tip I could give to myself for my past projects, it would be to immediately define your team roles and responsibilities.

Whether you're a team of one or many, roles and responsibilities provide a common understanding to both parties on what type of work is expected. From a leadership perspective you want to know who is being stretched too thin and from the teams perspective who should be doing what.

If there was another tip I could give - it would be that roles stick around, people don't. You're always going to have to replace a team member, but you should understand what you need to replace. If a team member is filling multiple roles - you - need to understand what impact that has across the project. Because your team members can't do two things at once.

Summary

  1. Define, document and share your project roles
  2. Don't give your roles too many responsibilities
  3. Do this early so both parties know what is expected of that role in the project

1. Define, document and share your project roles

If we were to remove ourselves from the software development / project delivery world for a second and instead move into the world of sports and think of any team-based sport. The teams will be made up of a number of positions and each position has a different role to play, the individuals, managers and spectators all share a common understanding of who should be doing what. Staticians can understand who is performing well, who is exception and those under performing.

Now this is not some groundbreaking idea, every project I've worked on has had roles defined (in some manner) from the project onset. However after the initial onboarding, the roles slowly unwind. The lines become blurred and work falls between the roles with idnividuals picking up the slack to meet deadlines. Project work is a constant balancing act - trying to meet time, cost and resource constraints while delivering the project on time.

2. Don't give your roles too many responsibilities

I don't know if there is a magic number but a team should not have that many roles shared between them. I would say keep it around 10 tops. Doing a quick search on Google, I can see thebalancecareers.com have said 5-7 with a maximum of 12 team members. There should be at least one role for every team member, perhaps some team members do two different roles at 50%. But most team members should have a single major role, with a potential minor role they may also fulfill. You shouldn't have two roles for every team member. Be sensible.

Roles and responsibilities will need constant massaging to keep them in check. based on team feedback on what is needed and what isn't. New roles will open up, old roles may close but you

Filling roles is a time-sink

You don't want your team members looking like this..

You don't want your team members looking like this..

Overworked team members - I often did extra work that wasn't accounted for - will eventually leave. Replacing these team members often means up-skilling a team member, reducing project velocity and overall productivity.

Subsequent deadlines will be delayed, other team members may pick up the slack, experience the extra burden and introduce additional stress.

Now what?

Well if you already have an up-to-date roles and responsibilities then good for you. If you don't - you should definitely create one soon! Use a template like this Google Sheets template to get started.