Project Teams Should Have a Flat Hierarchy

I know, it must sound like crazy talk but I genuinely believe there should be a flat hierarchy in a team of professionals. I don’t mean a Junior BA should be at the same level as a Principal BA, but I believe there are roles that should be equally responsible for risk and equally remunerated.

I’m not writing as a disgruntled BA wanting more money (though that’s always nice) but I’m speaking as someone who has worked in most roles within a project set up and I don’t agree with the standard hierarchy at play.

The project team I’m describing contains the following roles

  • Project Manager
  • Business Analyst
  • Data Analyst
  • Solution Architect
  • Change Manager

When I’ve proposed this in the past, I’ve been dismissed because the Project Manager manages all of the risk. The budget, the schedule, the Risk Register. They ensure everyone’s deliverables are met on time. And I don’t dispute that they do these things, but I dispute that they are the only ones who do this.

As a Business Analyst, I carry risk. I am responsible for accurate requirements that feed into vendor selection. I’m responsible for accurate processes and the gaps. I’m responsible for contributing to the Risk Register in every workshop and meeting I run or attend. I’m responsible for my own stakeholder engagement. I’m responsible for vendor interaction. I’m responsible for contributing to vendor configuration workbooks based on my work with stakeholders.

As a Data Analyst, I carry risk. I am responsible for collecting accurate current data. I am responsible for accurate data cleansing. I’m responsible for contributing to vendor configuration workbooks with data I’ve extracted. I’m responsible for data transformation between systems.

Solution Architect – I am responsible for current state system architecture. I am responsible for messaging interactions. I am responsible for data flows. I am responsible for future architecture with new the system’s configurations. I am responsible for accurate diagrams for vendor selection/

Change Manager – I am responsible for stakeholder analysis. I am responsible for change impact assessment. I am responsible for training needs analysis. I am responsible for communications on behalf of team members, sponsors and executives. I am responsible for project information websites/SharePoint sites. I am responsible for designing templates.

And of course, these are not exhaustive lists!

All of the roles are responsible for maintaining their workload and working to deadlines. They feed up their own analysis to the Project Manager for them to report on. They manage their relationships with the team and stakeholders.

The responsibility for running a Stand Up could even swap weekly between roles weekly or in facilitating team meetings. Each role presents their work to the team and to sponsors. Importantly, if the work done by any of these parties isn’t accurate and professional, they carry the risk of the project. All of these roles carry risk.

Junior members should report into their senior members to deliver and develop. They wouldn’t be represented in this team structure, but they play an important role in contributing to the work presented by senior team members.

When you plot it out like this, doesn’t it make sense that everyone has their part to play and the hierarchy should be flattened? Every party interacts throughout the project and the share their deliverables in team meetings. The Project Manager has a job to do but it shouldn’t be senior to the other team members, it is an equal partner. The Project Manager shouldn’t be controlling the work of a successful team, they should be unblocking barriers for the team members and supporting them as an equal. It’s an important role, as are the others.

I would be interested in your thoughts.


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