Projects enable archivists to undertake roles that differ from their usual positions and are training grounds for leadership. Team members likely have other responsibilities in addition to their work on the archival project. Identify gaps in skills or resources, and then begin to locate people to resolve staffing issues. Determining basic team member roles up front allows projects to move forward with vision and vigor.
Bringing People Together
Creating a high-performing team is an essential skill for a project manager. Team management activities depend on where the team is in the project timeline. Managing on day one looks different than how it seems halfway through the project—or at the end. The evolution of skills determines how to establish roles within the team to maximize its efficiency. It also identifies opportunities to cultivate team members’ capabilities.
Roles evolve as teams work together. One person may have an aptitude for troubleshooting, while another might enjoy planning meetings. Some team members may have latent talents they’re not even aware of, that may develop as the archival project unfolds. Cultivate these capacities. Project managers capitalize on these diverse skills by delegating tasks to the people who enjoy doing them; this enriches everyone’s experiences and build ownership into the project.
A responsibility matrix, also known as a RACI matrix, identifies roles within a project and their associated responsibilities. Using the matrix to define archival project roles helps avoid communication breakdowns because everyone involved can see whom to contact for each activity.
Those marked “responsible” do the work. “Accountable” members are the decisionmakers. People denoted “consult” must be conferred with before the work begins and serve as a point of information for the activity’s resources. Team members who are indicated to “inform” need to be kept abreast of an activity’s completion.
It’s possible for a role to serve in multiple categories. For example, the metadata specialist for a historical documents digitization project could have both the ‘accountable’ and ‘consult’ attributes on an activity. The ‘accountable’ responsibility, however, should be assigned only to one role per action because multiple roles shouldn’t make decisions on each assignment.
Balancing Archival Project Workloads
Assess whether staffing seems adequate for the tasks and whether the contributors involved are capable of the work. For each person, check to see that he or she isn’t assigned more responsibility than seems right. The team should share the work equally by defining roles for team members. The project’s scope may require a range of skills that one person is unlikely to have.
Brainstorming is a good example of interactive teamwork to generate ideas and solve problems. A small team can create many options; a suggestion from one person can stimulate ideas from the others. The selected choice should then have the support and commitment of the team, who will collectively share the risk of the decision. Teams tend to make better decisions than the team members would make individually with the same information. Exchanging ideas stimulate creativity and innovation.
If you’re an archival project manager, define archival project roles then try to recruit people who believe the project is crucial—because they’ll be predisposed to concentrate on achieving goals. Create occasions for team members to get to know each other, through off-site trips, lunches, or other activities, giving people chances to become friendly. Doing so will help them find a basis for collaboration.
Engage members in activities that interest them and keep them focused on results. Recognize the contributions of members to make them feel appreciated and part of the group. Acknowledge the value of diversity and celebrate how team members each serve the common goal. Unique skills and insights contribute to the success of the archival project.
Margot Note is an author, archivist, and records manager; she is also a guest blogger for Lucidea, provider of ArchivEra, archives collections management software purpose-built for today’s challenges. Read more advice from Margot: running successful archival projects.