Large projects require extensive planning to be completed on time and to a client’s expectations. When a complex project isn’t completed on time, the client is disappointed, and the team that didn’t get the work done feels bad.

You can avoid late deliveries and disappointed clients by laying the foundation of exceptional teamwork. That foundation begins with clearly defined team member roles.

  • Clearly defined roles create clarity

Clearly defined roles provide clarity around responsibilities and expectations. For example, often, the ball gets dropped, and nobody knows who to hold accountable. Sometimes that’s due to tasks not being assigned to one specific person, but the entire team.

It’s not enough to define tasks. People perform better when they know what’s expected of them in terms of their role, not a list of steps to take. For example, an article from describes a study where multiple news agencies were observed as they reported breaking news. The most successful groups had clearly defined roles within the group. For example, there was a designated camera operator, sound person, and story writer. There was no confusion regarding roles, and the stories were created smoothly.

Like breaking news stories, many projects are time-sensitive. With clear roles, tasks are completed quickly, without confusion that would otherwise cause delay.

  • Clearly defined roles support the project manager

A project manager’s duty is to lead the team to a successful and timely project completion. Undefined roles undermine the power of this important leader. Every role needs to be defined, from sales personnel to human resources teams.

For example, describes four key human resource roles that, when clearly defined, allow the project manager to organize and lead the team. Those roles are the project sponsor, the stakeholders, the line manager, and the project manager. Each of these roles have distinct responsibilities, but many companies don’t separate them.

These and other roles defined by the project manager should always be acknowledged and adhered to. Roles are created to maximize efficiency and get projects completed on time.

  • Clearly defined roles reduce arguments

When roles aren’t defined, team members will fight over tasks and deliverables. It’s not uncommon for a team member to ignore a task they feel they got “stuck” with because someone else took the task they really wanted.

Another aspect of arguments can arise from competition. Say you’ve got two copywriters on the team and one of them grabs the most desirable part of the project. The other copywriter will feel resentful toward their teammate, and possibly even the company as a whole.

Unless you want your organization to be like Lord of the Flies, assign specific roles and responsibilities to team members. Reduce the potential for delays due to competitive situations.

  • Clearly defined roles eliminate redundancy

Most employees know what it’s like to complete a task that was already completed by someone else. With clearly defined roles, this won’t happen. Unless you have a reason to assign the same task to multiple people, you don’t need to worry about wasted time or effort.

This is important when you’ve got employees who like to wander around and do their own thing. You need to rope them in with clearly defined roles. It will make them more efficient, too.

  • Clearly defined roles increase collaboration

Most people believe that leaving the roles of team members open and flexible encourages people to share and contribute more. Research by Harvard Business Reviews says otherwise. HBR found that collaboration improves when the roles of team members are clearly defined, well understood, and can be performed independently. Otherwise, team members tend to waste energy negotiating roles and arguing.

Don’t let tasks slip through the cracks

With clearly defined roles, tasks won’t slip through the cracks. For example, say you have a client who wants to run a PPC campaign on a private network nobody’s familiar with. Without clearly defined roles, who’s going to pick up that task? What if nobody wants it? You don’t have a choice – someone must do it, but who?

If you have an ad manager designated to run all online advertising campaigns, you wouldn’t have to worry about who’s going to do it.

Don’t wait – define your roles today

Revisit your company’s roles and ask your team members if there’s been any confusion on former projects. Listen to what they share. When you find a source of confusion, tighten up your roles. The risk of chaos and late projects increases each day your business lacks clearly defined roles.