Updated June 2023
Ever sat in a project meeting and thought, "This could go horribly wrong with so many cooks in the kitchen"? That could have been me yesterday, sitting at the organizational meeting for a new project. But it wasn't.

Before we got too far along, we began talking candidly about rules and roles, a core tenet of The Word Factory's approach to team writing.

How to design a successful project team

Coming up, I spent as much time on the production side as I did on the editorial side, so I learned pretty quick that clear responsibilities and rules of engagement (including deadlines) needed to be established early on. I've seen too many projects delayed or derailed for lack of a simple set-up. But I know that won't happen on this project because we outlined the rules and roles. Here's how:

  1. Identify key roles and tasks. Based on the end-product, reverse-engineer the project into a set of critical tasks. Check out more on roles and responsibilities for content team members.
  2. Assess team members. Look at each team member's expertise, temperament and capacity for the work during the time we have to produce the final product.
  3. Assign tasks to the person most capable of doing them. As much as possible, assign the tasks to the person best-suited to it. This may mean you move some people to new roles based on this criteria, but try not to ask anyone to do something they haven't demonstrated success at unless they and you are ready for a stretch goal. Keep the number of unenjoyable tasks anyone has to do to a minimum, decreasing the chances that they won't do them -- or will bitch about doing them.
  4. Identify gaps. Bring in talent from other teams or from outside the organization to fill skills or capacity gaps.Get tips for diversifying your vendor list
  5. Overlay deadlines. Identify deadlines and gates and map those out, too. (No fancy Gantt chart necessary, btw). Take a few minutes to explore consequences of missed deadlines and state those clearly.

When you're done, you'll have a project plan with the best odds of getting done on time, the least amount of anxiety and frustration, and the highest degree of delight for the client.

Sure, it doesn't always work out so neatly. But by simply bringing some thought to the rules and roles on your next project, you'll be more likely to create a smooth content creation process with minimal blood on the rule.

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