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Who’s on First? Easy Ways to Make Teamwork Easier

One way to avoid general confusion (not to mention social loafing), is to clarify who will do what on a project. I know, this is the most obvious possible thing, but you might be surprised how often even senior people forget to make this happen. When people are working at a distance, on national or international teams, who-is-doing-what becomes even more important.

08-18 Veiny Leaves

Can we see who is doing what?

Here are three simple steps that I’ve seen done well or not done at all. Done well? Smooth sailing. Not? Churn.

  • Who is managing this project? Make this clear. For many projects, there will be two project managers: one for the client and one for the team doing the work.
    For example: Let’s say there’s a client team and a design team. The client team is made up of people from disparate organizations within a multi-faceted company. A Senior VP in charge of a large national function says that he will be the project manager. No, no, no, no, no. This is almost like not having a project manager on the client side. He’s too busy to dive into scheduling and coordinating details.
    Instead, ask for someone who reports to the Senior VP, because nobody in her right mind is going to ask the VP to manage logistical details, arbitrate small details, or ask any number of what might seem (to the VP) to be trivial questions.
  • Who is on the team? Make a list. Who’s doing what and here’s their contact information.
    For example: You are working on a project for an organization where many people have a vested interest in the outcome. You’re not sure who they are, what roles they play, or even how to contact them. Result? Extra communications and time to figure out whom to ask and how to make contact.
    Make a list, distribute it to everyone in the project community. Name, title, location (or time zone), role in the project, email, phone. Put the list in a Dropbox or other team folder, and update it over the course of the project, as needed. Make sure everybody knows where to find the list. (I know, this is ridiculously obvious, but people fail to do this more often than you’d think.)
  • Who is in charge of what? Set this up at the beginning. Don’t leave this to everybody’s imagination.
    For example: Your designer is accustomed to creating layouts or establishing the look and feel for a course, but she finds out (after investing a fair amount of time and effort) that there’s someone else who must approve her ideas. This may cause a) consternation and b) rework.
    What if we put these two people in touch early in the project? They can discuss possible approaches before a lot of work is done. Oh, and what if we also make sure they both understand their roles/authority for deciding what’s in and what’s out?

When we put a project together, we already know who’s doing what. But team members won’t know, unless we tell them (or unless they think to ask). We can save a lot of time for everyone if we remember to provide team information to the whole team. This is especially important when team members don’t all know each other, haven’t worked together before, work for different organizations, or haven’t ever met in person.

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