“So, am I responsible for this?” one of my project team members asked me. “Yes,” I replied. While I am the project manager and responsible for the project overall, this individual was responsible for getting a particular risk management plan entered into our risk tracking software and for allocating the tasks to the relevant team members.
On a project team, you’ll find that many people have different responsibilities. But there is only one person who is accountable for the success of the project overall, and most of the time that is the project sponsor, not you!
Knowing which stakeholders and team members are responsible, accountable or who hold other interests in the project can help you manage them more effectively. Here’s our guide to the different stakeholder roles.
Most projects have wide-ranging groups of stakeholders who all need to be engaged and managed somehow. Collaboration software can help as it gives you plenty of options about how to work with individuals, from fully customized dashboards showing tailored information about project status through to email blasts aimed at informing the widest possible audience about what is going on with your project.
But what sort of engagement should you be doing? Not everyone is going to need the same level of information as the project team members or the sponsor. Once you know how involved someone should be, you can put this information into your stakeholder management plan and use it to actively work with the stakeholder in the most appropriate way. Let’s look first at people who are responsible for project work.
There can be several people responsible for different things on the project. Generally, the project manager is the one with the biggest chunk of responsibility! But you could also have team leaders, work stream leaders or functional managers with responsibility for various other bits of project work, even if they then all report to you.
Team members can also be responsible for things on the project: think task ownership or being responsible for seeing through an action plan for managing a risk or issue like my team member. You could also have someone different responsible for the change management process or particular elements of project management practice. Most project team members will fall into the ‘Responsible’ category so you can engage and collaborate with them appropriately.
Your Project Management Office could be responsible for ensuring that they provide you with access to the tools you need to do your job. For example, it is often this group that is responsible for managing the online project management tools and granting people access to the functionality that they need.
There is only ever one person accountable for the task or project. At the project level, this is the project sponsor. This is the person who owns the project and they are normally responsible for securing the budget and people required to run the project. They are also the person who will get the benefit from the project. Say you are building a new type of ball bearing. Your project sponsor could be the Manufacturing Director or the R&D Director. They are accountable for the outcomes and the successful completion of the project, even if they delegate most of the ‘doing’ to you as project manager.
It’s important to engage and collaborate with your project sponsor in a way that shows that you acknowledge that they are accountable: in other words, that it is their job on the line if the project doesn’t go well! That means making sure that they have the information they need to fulfill their role adequately so they can report up to their management about the project progress.
Yes, people are responsible and accountable for your project, but there are also two other types of engagement that stakeholders can have. The first of these is ‘Consulted’. These people aren’t responsible for carrying out the work or accountable for it, but they are involved. They should be consulted and provide input. An example would be a subject matter expert.
Let’s go back to our ball bearing project. Your project plan would include provision for you to get expert advice on the manufacture of the ball bearing, so you call in someone with subject matter expertise to consult with them on how to do it. Once the expert has provided some input, they leave the project team unless you need them again. They are simply consulted but don’t take ownership for any project activity.
The final type of engagement that you find with stakeholders is ‘Informed’. These people have even less to do with the project than those whom you consult. They are simply informed of what is going on.
On your ball bearing manufacturing project, the people whom you inform could be other staff members in the company, especially if you produce a regular project newsletter or update the project online portal to share information with a wider group. You don’t expect any input from these people but they do have an interest in the project and should know what is going on. Someday someone in the ‘Informed’ group may need to provide subject matter expertise or even carry out project tasks so it is good to include them on your stakeholder management plan and make sure that you know who they are.
These are the 4 ways that you can classify project stakeholders: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. You might see this abbreviated to RACI, and you can use these headings in your stakeholder management plan to ensure that you have grouped similar stakeholders together. All this information feeds into your project communication plans so that you can guarantee everyone gets the messages they need to your project progress. When you think of stakeholders in groups like this, it makes managing them much less daunting!