From Confusion to Cohesion: How Role Clarity Impacts Team Morale & Project Success

A successful project depends on many factors, of which role clarity is one of the most important. Say your team installs a project management software like Asana. It’ll improve task management but you’ll also experience uncertainty. Specifically, uncertainty about each member’s role. The result is conflict, confusion, and delays. How can you fix this? We believe the RACI model is a great tool to establish role clarity, and we’ll explain why.

What is Role Clarity?

A project member has role clarity when they know what’s expected of them and by when; and it’s not only about what’s listed in the job description. The job description is what gets us hired, then reality sets in and invariably roles evolve as the landscape shifts. The question to ask ourselves and our management teams is…what is the highest and best contribution I can make to help my team and my organization achieve the desired outcome. What are my unique talents and skills and what is my highest and best value for the task at hand? Undoubtedly, our highest and best will evolve from project to project, goal to goal.

And since most people work in teams, role clarity isn’t limited to one’s own role. Every team member also needs to know their colleagues’ roles.

When we achieve role clarity, projects go more smoothly because the ambiguity around who is doing what is removed and we introduce greater peer-to-peer accountability right from the get-go, rather than top-down accountability (aka traditional command and control).

Why It Matters?

According to Gallup, 40% of employees don’t know what’s expected from them, creating a whole heck of a lot of confusion and ultimately finger-pointing when things go awry. Over time, Role ambiguity hurts engagement and morale.

Few businesses are immune. As daily demands change, sometimes hourly, roles can evolve quickly and we end up gravitating towards the projects and tasks we enjoy doing and are good at. The stuff we hate doing gets neglected, even when it’s in our job description. We need to stop doing the things we hate by 1) eliminating it, 2) delegating it, or 3) automating it. For example, many early-stage startups have fluid workplaces.

In contrast, role clarity can improve employee performance by up to 25%. It also decreases employee turnover.

Let’s say you put together a team for a project. Your team consists of the following roles:

  • Project owner: The project owner is ultimately accountable for achieving the project’s goals. They align strategy with project priorities, guiding the project’s vision, reviewing, approving, and making the difficult decisions and trade-offs to ensure stays tightly aligned with goals as new data and new information unfolds.
  • Champions and Change Agents: The champion of change introduces new, more efficient, ever more streamlined processes and workflows for the team to work efficiently. Their role is to help each team member get the most from their finite time and energy. This means hunting down waste and inefficiency, improving meeting efficiency, eliminating busy work, and optimizing technology to automate low-skill work.
  • Project Manager or Coordinator: Project managers are the drivers, operating between project/product owners and project participants. They help each team member operate at their best by clarifying task requirements, assigning due dates, and helping teams focus on the right tasks at the right time. They are the servant leaders for the project teams. removing barriers along the way, managing conflict, driving the weekly cadence and providing regular status updates. The importance of the right person in this seat cannot be overstated.
  • Individual Contributors (aka Responsible parties): Contributors include the strategists, writers, developers, and designers charged with delivering on specific components of the project. They are responsible for their portion of the project but also contribute to the creative innovation and problem-solving of the team as a whole. Great individual contributors can correlate multiple aspects of the project, connecting the dots, anticipating potential challenges, improving the original design, and bringing new ideas to the table.
  • Consultants: Consultants provide expertise and advice for a project. They are subject matter experts consulting throughout the project or at specific points along the way. Their advice is used as guidance for complex projects that require category-specific, specialty, or niche expertise, informing both strategy and execution. Hire the right consultants and make sure they are adding genuine value to the project and not simply a fly on the wall that wants to stay informed.
  • Reviewers and Approvers: Reviewers and approvers provide feedback on project deliverables. Their goal is to ensure the project meets the required quality standards. They can also help reduce bottlenecks and excessive waiting in the workflow.

All of this can be streamlined and managed using tools like Asana, Monday, Click-up, and other similar Project, task, & work management tools. When used effectively, these tools bring visibility and transparency to both work in progress and upcoming work in the pipe. This helps teams see exactly who is working on what and by when. Hand-offs can be automated and well-structured reporting provides stakeholders with at-a-glance status reports without having to drill down.

So, How Can You Improve Role Clarity Into Your Project Management Processes?

We’ve found the RACI matrix to be a useful tool for establishing role clarity in your projects. It’s a framework that categorizes roles and responsibilities to minimize confusion. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed.

  • Responsible (R): This role refers to the individual responsible for completing tasks. Having a Responsible role ensures every task has an owner in charge of completing it.
  • Accountable (A): The Accountable role is assigned to the person ultimately accountable for the success or failure of the entire project. The Accountable role ensures every project task is owned by an individual responsible for its success.
  • Consulted (C): Members assigned the Consulted roles provide expertise and guidance as subject-matter experts in a particular topic. They achieve this by providing specialized knowledge.
  • Informed (I): The Informed role is those who wish to stay informed throughout the projects. This role isn’t directly involved in a project’s execution. They only seek to keep a pulse on the project and its overall progress.

For a brief video tutorial on the RACI matrix, click here. Download our free RACI Matrix Template Worksheet here to help you gain clarity before your next project.

What would a 25% increase in operational efficiency this year mean for your organization? Need an expert hand to help you reduce waste and streamline more?

We can help you deploy the same project management systems and training utilized by today’s top-performing organizations. We’ll design both simplified, automated workflows to reduce repetitive, manual tasks, plus we’ll guide your team on consistent practices and routines to accelerate progress while reducing workload. Platforms we specialize in: Asana, Monday, Click-up. Reach out by email with a description of your current priorities at: [email protected]. Or, book a short discovery call here. Full disclaimer: As an Asana Consultant and Asana Solution Provider, we are unabashedly biased. With that, we won’t hold it against you for using these other tools. Any tool is better than no tool and we will gladly support you. 😉

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