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What is a Team Role Structure?

The role structure of the team determines the content and distribution of different roles within the team. The knowledge and ability to use the structure of roles within the team is a strong and efficient instrument of human resource management in the project team.

There are three major types of roles we can see in the team: creative roles, communicative roles, and behavioral roles. Normally each member of the team has some of each of the three types.

The creative role of a team member characterizes his or her active position in the problem solving process, search for alternatives, and other actions assuming a certain level of creativity. The communicative role characterizes the position of a team member in the overall communication structure of the project. The behavioral role shows the typical model of a team member’s behavior during the course of project development.

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Below we present the most typical creative, communication-oriented, and behavior-oriented roles of the team members with their characteristics.

Creative Roles

Idea Generator: A team member who generates principal ideas, sets up key problems, suggests alternative decisions, etc.

Idea Compiler: A team member who develops fundamental ideas into practical solutions that are capable of uniting different ideas.

Erudite: A team member who has knowledge of a wide range of problems in the past and in the present.

Expert: A team member who is capable of evaluating the advisability of the idea and able to give correct advice in the course of a discussion.

Enthusiast: A team member who is capable of inspiring the other members with his or her belief in the success of the project.

Critic: A team member who analyzes the performance and results of team work giving critical, often negative, evaluation of the ideas presented.

Organizer: A team member who organizes work that unites the work of different team members with the final result of achievement.

Communicative Roles

Leader: A team member with high personal and professional authority who influences both the team as a whole and its individual members.

Recorder: A team member who carries out the important routine work of registering ideas, opinions, and decisions and developing final reports.

Liaison: A team member who carries out informal interpersonal linking of conflicting group members by providing external group communications.

Watchman: A team member who distributes and controls the information flow, evaluating the importance of the message and getting it all the way through to the leader.

Coordinator: A team member who carries out the coordination of different team members’ activities with the final result of achievement when in contact with the leader.

Guide: A team member who knows the structure of the organization very well and knows how to communicate information about it with the external project environment.

Behavioral Roles

Optimist: A person who is always certain about the success of the project, finds ways to get out of crisis situations, and inspires the other team members.

Nihilist: A person who is always uncertain about the project success, has critical viewpoints that are mostly different from the accepted ones, and seems like a "black sheep".

Conformist: A person who follows the accepted behavioral patterns, passively agrees with group decisions, and represents the "silent majority".

Dogmatist: A person who holds to known norms, holds her own opinion to the end, and does not agree with rational group decisions.

Commentator: A person who comments about the events happening within the project, people’s lives, or outside project environment.

Intriguer: A person who collects and spreads rumors that are often untested and false, sees personal offense everywhere, and is ready to write complaints to all the higher levels.

Fighter for Truth: A person who carries and represents social, moral, organizational philosophy and human rights. Can play both progressive and regressive roles.

Public Person: A person who is strongly involved with public work and often dreams of different public "activities" to be carried out during work time. Does not consider his project responsibilities seriously enough.

"Important Person": A person who presents himself as someone who knows a lot.

"Orphan": A person who searches for understanding and sympathy, complaining about his loneliness and his lack of understanding from the other team members and management.

"Ruff": A person who normally is irritated by friends and develops lots of enemies, conflicting with team members and management.

"All for Himself": A person who conducts personal business at work using his work position.

Loafer: A person who shows very little activity at work, does only minor work, and achieves very little.

"Napoleon": A person who is a glorious man with a high feeling of self-importance, who dreams of taking over the leadership position, and who tells stories about his achievement and lack of recognition among management.

Knowing the roles of the team members not only allows the manager to use the human resources of the project efficiently, but also helps to develop the correct environment in various situations, manages discussions and group dynamics, and solves conflict situations.

In order to strongly improve the productivity of the team during the group activities such as meetings and team briefings, it is important to choose a number of typical, most important roles that need to be represented in order for the work of a group to be efficient. Among the roles described above, the key ones may include organizer, idea generator, critic, expert, liaison, and recorder.

The University of California at La Jolla Handbook for Group Facilitators also suggests pointing out target achieving roles and supportive roles for leaders, where target achieving roles are directed at setting up major management objectives and provide all the major decision-making procedures. Supportive roles are oriented to the development of a good social-psychological climate and provide for a team’sefficient performance.