Setting roles and expectations

Team members are more willing to trust and cooperate with other team members when they know what to expect from each other, especially in distributed teams where personal contact is limited.  Each team member should not only understand his or her role and responsibilities, but also that of their teammates.  By reducing the ambiguity of people’s roles, and sharing this information across the team, members gain confidence in communicating with each other and working together.

Roles are typically set from the start of the project. Expectations are determined mainly via the processes and workflows.  If you have no documented roles and expectations, consider assembling your team in a meeting where teammates list all critical decisions and activities that they anticipate or for which they are already accountable.  It’s easier, of course, when the team can reference a well defined process. These are then discussed and agreement is reached on who has which role and what is expected of them.  While this activity can take place over the course of the team’s collaboration, determining roles early in the team’s life cycle helps accelerate productivity.

Lastly, it’s incumbent upon leads to regularly who reinforce roles and expectations, as well as adjust them to meet the demands of projects.

Our research shows that… Collaboration improves when the roles of individual team members are clearly defined and well understood…”  Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams, Harvard Business Review, Nov. 2007

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