Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

Team Management

How to use a Responsibility Matrix

In a large project, there may be many people that have some role in the creation and approval of project deliverables. Sometimes it is straightforward, such as one person writing a document and one person approving it. In other cases, there may be many people who have a hand in the creation and others that need to have varying levels of approval. For complicated scenarios involving many people, it can be helpful to have a Responsibility Matrix. This helps set expectations and ensures people know what is expected from them.

On the matrix, the different people (or roles) appear as columns, with the specific deliverables in question listed as rows. Then, use the intersecting points to describe each person's responsibility for each deliverable. A simple matrix is shown, followed by suggested responsibility categories.

  • R – Responsible. The person assigned to do the work
  • A – Accountable. The person who makes the final decision and has ultimate ownership
  • C – Consulted. The person who must be consulted before a decision or action is taken
  • I – Informed. The person who must be informed that a decision or action has been taken

In the table above, the Project Charter is created by the project manager; approved by the Country Director, the Steering Committee is consulted, and the Project Team is informed.

The purpose of the matrix is to clarify and gain agreement on who does what, and define the columns with as much detail as makes sense. For instance, in the above example, the 'project team' could have been broken into specific people or the person responsible for creating the Program Approach could have been broken out into a separate column. After the matrix is completed, it should be circulated for approval. If it is created as a part of the Planning Phase and it should be circulated as a separate document.

The ability to gain clarity is vital for the matrix to be effective. It must reflect people's expectations and responsibilities. For instance, if the Country Director delegated the approval of Project Charter to the Steering Committee, that fact should be represented on the matrix for all to see and approve. On the other hand, if the Country Director agrees that he will approve the Program Approach, then, in fact, his approval is required, not that of a subordinate that was delegated the responsibility.

The matrix should be used to define the level of responsibility for critical actions, especially those that require an approval and review by the key stakeholder in a project. It is not necessary to use this matrix for all project activities since it will be a duplication of efforts as that information is captured in the project schedule.

The matrix should be distributed by all people or groups involved, especially if they have responsibilities to create or approve a project document, failure to do that will result in delays that will impact the project schedule.

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The Roles of the Project Manager

Development organizations appoint a project manager for the depth of his or her technical skills. It is not unusual to find a good engineer being promoted to project manager just for his or her technical competence. While it is true that one must have a good understanding of the technical aspects of the project, project managers are also required to have good management skills such as communicating; planning, negotiating, coaching, decision-making, and leadership. These skills are often overlooked at the time of hiring or appointing a project manager.

The job descriptions for a project manager need to be more explicit in defining the managerial skills and competencies required for the job. Organizations usually assign a project manager with the idea that all that is required is expertise in a technical area and often forget the need to have a project manager with the skills to lead a project team, coordinate the use of resources, communicate with stakeholders and manage the project constraints, all at the same time.

Organizations need to build a better understanding of the role of a project manager and understand that this role is not the same as a technical manager. The project manager role is one of integrator, communicator and facilitator; this role is of equal or more importance than the role of a technical manager.

There are three critical roles of the project manager:

  • Integrator; ensures all the project activities, strategies and approaches are an integrated effort.
  • Communicator; most of the work is spend here, communicating with all stakeholders and building the right support and relationships.
  • Leader; motivating and inspiring a team to deliver the project work by providing a vision and direction.

A key responsibility of the project manager is to ensure the proper integration of the project management processes and coordinate the project phases through the project management cycle. This responsibility is to ensure that all areas of the project come together to deliver the project to a successful conclusion. This is the main role of the project manager; it is not related to the technical responsibilities of the project, which in most cases are managed by the project staff. The role of integrator involves three specific areas of responsibility:

  • Develop the project management plans, which consists of the development of all project planning documents into a consistent, coherent project plan document.
  • Implement the project plan, which involves the execution of the project plan and ensuring all activities are performed by all the people involved.
  • Monitor and control the plan, which involves measuring the initial results against the intended objectives and coordinating all changes to the plans.

As communicator the project manager ensures that all stakeholders receive the right information at the right time. This is an important role. The project manager has a holistic view of the project and is in the best position to know the why, when, what and how the project is doing and communicate progress, changes and risks to the parties involved. Studies confirm that the project manager spends about 80% of his/her time communicating. Project managers in the role of communicators assume three functions:

  • Gathering information from project staff and other people involved with the project;
  • Analyzing the information and make sense of its implications; a
  • Distributing the information to the internal and external environments, such as the donor, beneficiaries, and the general public to gain support for the project.

As leader, the project manager must ensure the team and project stakeholders have an understanding of the project vision. A leader inspire others to achieve the project objectives, the leader encourages full participation from the project team, promotes mutual understanding with the beneficiaries and cultivates shared responsibility among all project stakeholders.

The leadership role implies the skills to:

  • Facilitate: To ease and assist the project team to do their work
  • Coordinate: To organize, direct and synchronize the efforts of all involved in the project
  • Motivate: To inspire, stimulate and encourage the team to achieve the project objectives

 These roles are integrated and cannot be treated as separate, and they are critical to the success of any project manager.

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