“Shades of grey wherever I go
The more I find out the less that I know
Black and white is how it should be
But shades of grey are the colors I see.” – Billy Joel, Shades Of Gray
Have you ever worked on a project where the lines of responsibility were extremely clear? Projects on which there was never any doubt as to who was responsible for every different part of the project and exactly who would accomplish which task. If you have, it was probably because you were the only one on that project. But in real life, that never happens.
We can start with the project plan. Everyone on the project needs to contribute to that, but the amount of each person’s contribution will not be clear until it is done. As you go forward, decisions will need to be about tasks needing to be accomplished. Some or most of them will be very clear who has responsibility and who is accountable. But any time there is work that crosses a boundary from one person to another or one team to another, then the project has entered the grays zone.
If you have read earlier posts, like this one about team interactions, or this one about handoffs, you will see that the gray zone is a happy, powerful place to be. You’ll also see that it is a potentially dangerous place to be. These are the places where your communication skills are most needed and the place where you need to make sure your team members are communicating and collaborating fully. This is where you need to get involved in the details, the follow-up, and all the things that you do to help your team members in your project manager role. You may not be writing the process documentation or the work plan, but you are reviewing it very thoroughly. This means you need to have enough knowledge to do that intelligently. This might mean there is a research burden on you here.
With a good team, the people working in the gray areas will work together and figure out their individual roles and tasks. Everyone involved will accept responsibility for those areas. With a newer team, or one that is not used to sharing as well, it is going to be up to you to work with them to turn them into a good team and make sure everything is getting done, reviewed, and cleaned up. You have more communication responsibility, but that is just part of the zest of being a project manager.
Don’t be afraid of gray areas. Dive right into them. They are a big reason why you are involved, and this is where a project rocks or fails. Yours will rock!