5 Reasons Why Clear Project Roles and Responsibilities are Important

First Published:

Last Updated:

Table of Contents


I have found that for many projects, the project team members don’t have their project roles and responsibilities clearly defined.

This causes many problems, five of the most important are:


  • Due dates get missed, leading to schedule delays.


  • Costs increase due to duplication of tasks or missed tasks having to be done late.
  • Extra variations arise from contractors due to missing scope items.


  • Quality suffers because review of deliverables gets done incorrectly or not at all.


  • Important tasks get missed, because people (or contractors) think other people are doing that item.

Team Workload:

  • The team doesn’t know who is working on what.
  • The project manager or other project staff need to spend a lot more time than necessary tracking the status of key tasks and deliverables.
  • Not knowing whether something is being done by others leads to team members doing more work on the project than necessary.
  • The project team gets increased stress, leading to lower performance or people leaving the project, and also leading to health and safety issues.

Another issue is that if roles are not clearly defined, it can sometimes look like work is allocated based on favouritism. And favouritism is nearly always bad for a project.


Define Roles

In any project, it is important to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each team member, and also of each contractor.

The project manager should define the roles of each team member. For large projects they should delegate this allocation to the managers of the different teams within the project.

In this case of larger projects, the project manager should split the project into areas or main tasks and the managers of those areas would then split up their subtasks and allocate them to people under them.

On a small project, the project manager should define the roles and responsibilities, the main tasks and then be aware of what each person is supposed to be working on.

Some of the links on this website may be affiliate links to products I use, have tested or am familiar with. I may receive a commission if you click on some of those links and make a purchase. This is at no additional cost to you.

On larger projects, the PM should know who is responsible for each main area and their general schedule, cost and deliverable status.

In all cases, it should be clear who is the final decision maker on anything important, especially related to schedule, cost or scope changes.

The result should be that each project team member knows:

  • Their project role (such as a title or short description)
  • What is expected of them (a longer more detailed description)
  • Who they report to
  • Their main deliverables
  • Their main responsibilities
  • Who will review, approve or accept their work (e.g. design reviewer, or construction inspector)
  • The schedule they are supposed to be working towards (i.e. when they must complete their deliverables)
  • The cost budget they have (this may be in terms of hours for them to do their role, or a budget for the purchases and other project costs they have)

Role Description

I find that a good way to accomplish the above is to provide each project team member with a role description. This description could be a paragraph explaining the role and then dot points or a table listing the above items.

You must make sure this role description or brief is not too long. It must be something the person can look at and read quickly and that they can refer to often.

I also think it can be made into a live document. Something that is updated as the project develops. In that case you would add updates to the deliverable items.

For more complicated projects, the role brief could link to a location where the main tasks are kept, controlled and allocated (such as a project management system). Then the tasks would be managed from there.

Design Briefs

For internal design teams, I have also seen good use of a design brief. This brief was made listing the scope for the designer, the expected deliverables, who would have to review and approve etc, the expected completion date and the time budget (hours per designer) allocated to this. The design manager would then review and adjust this (mainly in terms of expected hours) and then the design manager, designer, and the PM would sign this. This gives a great deal of emphasis on the importance of the role and in keeping people focused on your project and completing the work you expect of them.

Manage By Contracts

I will detail my experience and thoughts regarding contracting in my post regarding contracting in or out. This details both contracting out and also turning team briefs into team contracts.


Projects often fail because the project team members are not clear on their roles and responsibilities.

Make sure your project team members know what they are supposed to do with defined roles, clear role descriptions and briefs of what they should be doing.  The result should be reduced stress, costs, improved schedule, and better project deliverables.

Leave a comment