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Best Practices to Increase the Success of Your Virtual Project Team

Virtual Project Team

Roles & Responsibilities

Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting best practices focused on successfully leading your virtual project team. These best practices will help you increase the success of your team overall – working together, meeting goals, sharing information, etc. Project teams can be challenging in general, add a virtual component to that team and the complexity just increases!
Today we’ll cover “roles and responsibilities.” Specifically – for a virtual project team to be successful you must ensure that every team member is clear on their roles and responsibilities on the project. I assign roles and responsibilies based on expertise, skills, past experiences, and – when you do it right and plan early – you can also assign roles and responsibilities enabling junior team members to gain essential new skills while working on the project.

When assigning roles and responsibilities, do not work in a “bubble.” Rather, get the team involved. When team members are able to participate in identifying the roles and responsibilities on the project and how they might support the project based on their skills and expertise, they are more likely to be committed to the project.
Once roles and responsibilities are decided upon, I share a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) so that the team understands primary roles and responsibilities on the team. (See exhibit 1 below).  In this example, we see that Sarah is responsible (see legend below) for two major tasks: development of the initial design document and finalizing the design. Working with her – accountable for completing the tasks – are Jack and Alice. And Thomas will be required to be informed when the first task (development of the initial design document) is complete so that he can then take on responsibility for his task – Review of design.

This RAM enables the team to understand how they need to interact with each other and who they need to reach out when assistance is needed or questions arise.

Tasks/Activities

Team Members

Name: Jack

Name: Alice

Name: Sarah

Name: Thomas

1.0 Development of initial design document

A

A

R

I

2.0 Review design

C

C

C

R

3.0 Finalize design

A

A

R

C

Legend:

R = Responsible: Team member responsible for performance of the task

A = Accountable: Team member(s) who are accountable for completing/working on the task

C = Consult: Team members, stakeholders, others who must provide information for the task

I = Inform: Team members, stakeholders, other who should be kept up to date regarding the completion of the task

Exhibit 1: Example Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM)

In summary, be sure that you understand the skills, expertise and past experiences of your team. However, if you are looking at resumes or bios of team members, do not just assume that the information is updated. I like to reach out to my team members to work with them directly about how they can best support the project. If you plan your resource needs early, and work closely with the team, I often find that I can provide team members opportunities to build skills. Especially in virtual environments, take the time as part of your first team meeting to ensure that everyone understands and are clear about roles and responsibilities of the individual team members, including how they will need to interact with each other. When I need team members to reach across borders to work with others, I always provide contact information along with time zone differences so they are comfortable reaching out.