When working with a leadership team, a team within an organisation or a project team, one of the biggest challenges they face is gaining role clarity.  When we talk about role clarity, we are not just talking individual role clarity.  It extends beyond this as we look to ensure teams within teams are set up well to deliver outcomes. Outcomes can only be delivered if you have people who know their roles and the roles of others. For this to occur, people need to go beyond their position descriptions to understand what needs to be achieved and how we do this.

Position descriptions are useful as a foundation for gaining role clarity. They provide clarity to individuals normally around tasks, outcomes, key performance indicators and behaviours. They also allow for alignment between individuals and their managers.  However, they don’t tend to extend into other conversations or shared with others beyond an alignment between two individuals.

To really leverage role clarity to help your team become high performing, there is a need to really extend position description conversations to whole team role clarity workshops. This takes role clarity between peers, teams and with managers to another level. The differences between a position description and what a role clarity workshop with suitable outcomes documented from it are as follows:

  • the position description is generally between a project team member or individual and their manager.  Not many other people get to see it or have high visibility around it or what it covers;
  • role clarity workshops allow everyone to see the bigger picture of the project or organisation as well as others roles. This is important because you learn to collaborate with a purpose and understand who is accountable for what in the team and across teams and who you need to work with to achieve an outcome;
  • the other key aspect that a role clarity workshop achieves is the goal of an empowered and self-managed team;
  • the role clarity matrix that is an outcome from the workshop can be shared with other teams to allow them to work more effectively together;
  • position descriptions don’t necessarily drive peer to peer accountability in teams.  This is important and more powerful than manager to staff accountability which is needed in high performance teams;
  • doing position descriptions in ‘silos’ doesn’t question or highlight gaps or duplication, nor does it ensure they are linked to overall organisation or project outcomes. The role clarity workshop addresses this; and
  • the material generated from the output notes from each workshop will naturally feed in to position descriptions. This will lead to more outcome based position descriptions that link to the team bigger picture.

For me, this is a critical activity for new teams, new projects and leadership teams.  People will struggle to work productively if they don’t understand the bigger picture and how their role contributes to it.  You need to set everyone up for success through gaining role clarity that extends beyond the individual and allows collaboration with purpose across teams.

BRS has written on role clarity previously as it relates to alignment between teams and where responsibility lies in relation to role clarity which may also be of interest.