This post is part of the Clarifying Project Team Roles series of posts. In these, we'll look at project role definition in detail.

In part 1, we looked at why team member roles should be clarified; here we explore when.

Part 2: When should project team roles be defined?

The most obvious answer is at the start of the project, however that's not always possible, nor is it the only option. Projects often start before the PM is involved. Odd as this may seem, it is often reality in managing resources and specifically when dealing with contracted PMs.

Since we can't always define roles at the start, a better answer to the "when" question is "to define roles whenever there is a change to the project team." Take a moment to digest that statement. "Define roles whenever there is a change to the project team."

Roles should be reviewed when a team member is added to the project. Same for when a team member leaves the project, whether during the project or as the team shrinks towards project closure.  

If a PM joins the team after the initiation phase, then roles should be reviewed with the team. (This is also a great way for the PM to understand the team dynamics and the work of the project.)

The start of the project is also a change to the project team. Even though that may be the best time to review roles, many of the team members are yet to be engaged with the project.

Use this rule as the best practice for when to define project team roles. Any change to the project team will impact the team members' roles thus making it necessary to review and clarify them.

As a PM, define roles as soon as possible when starting an engagement. It takes time to gather information about roles, people and project specifics before this can be completed. Proactively planning role clarification for known or anticipated team changes is also a best practice.

There is one more "when" relating to defining roles. That is when the team isn't following the currently defined roles. If this occurs, review the roles as defined with the team and consider modifying them if necessary. Keep this in mind as it may help offset additional problems later in the project.

About the Series

This series focuses on defining roles on a project or project team and the importance of doing so.  Search for Clarifying Project Team Roles to see the related posts for more information role definition.

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