One of the basic responsibilities of the project manager is
to assign work to team members. However, some project managers are not always
clear on the work to be done and the person that is responsible. This causes
uncertainty in the team and can result of some activities running late. If you’ve
managed projects for a while, you’ve probably run into this situation. For
example, you ask a team member the status of a critical assignment and he tells
you that he did not realize that he was responsible for the activity.

A good way to test whether your directions and assignments
are clear is to ask team members what they are responsible for completing in
the next two weeks. If team members know what is expected of them, chances are
that you are effectively and clearly assigning the work. However, if team
members give you different answers than you expect, it may mean that you need
to work on being clearer and more precise.

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If team members understand the work perfectly, but don’t
deliver on time, you may have a performance problem. However, if the team
member is not clear about the work they have been assigned or the due date, the
project manager may have a communication problem. When you assign work to team
members, be clear about the following:

  • Activity
    name(s). From the workplan.
  • An
    explanation. Describe, if necessary, what the work entails.
  • Start
    date and estimated end date. The project manager needs to be clear on when
    the activity can start (probably immediately) and when the activity is
    due. If the team member cannot meet the deadline date, he or she needs to
    let you know as soon as possible.
  • Estimated
    effort hours (optional). The project manager should communicate the
    estimated hours required to complete the activity. This is usually of secondary
    importance compared to the due date. If the team member cannot complete
    the activities within the estimated effort hours, he or she needs to let
    you know as soon as possible. Estimated effort hours are most important if
    the team member is a contractor or the employees charge-back their time to
    the client organization. Then the efforts hours will be related to the
    estimated costs below.
  • Estimated
    costs (optional). If the team member needs to manage the cost associated
    with an activity, he or she needs to know this number as well. If the team
    member cannot complete the work within the cost estimate, he or she needs
    to let the project manager know as soon as possible.
  • Deliverable.
    The team member needs to understand the deliverable or work component (a
    portion of a larger deliverable) that they are expected to complete. If
    there are quality criteria to meet, the team member should know these
    quality requirements as well.
  • Dependencies.
    Make sure the team members knows their relationship with other activities
    – ones that are waiting on them or ones that must be complete before
    theirs can start.
  • Other
    resources. If multiple people are working on the same activity, they must
    all understand who their team members are and they need to know who has
    overall responsible for the activity.

This seems like a lot of information, and some of it is
optional. However, this is the type of information that needs to be
communicated to make sure that the team member knows what they are accountable
for.