Roles And Responsibilities Are Obsolete

Roles & Responsibilities are obsolete - Photo by Gabriel Crismariu on Unsplash

Roles and responsibilities are a critical part of any organization. They set out what everyone is supposed to do, helping to avoid duplication and gaps in coverage. Without them it would be chaotic, or would it? In my experience roles and responsibilities are quickly filed away in the desk drawer, rarely to be seen again. What if we simply didn’t bother to have any?

Roles and responsibilities belong to a different time

Roles and responsibilities come from a time when our work was much more predictable and structured. Command and control was the predominant management method. The goal of any manager was to remove variation and standard roles and responsibilities were a great way to do this. Learn what to do and then keep doing it the same way.

As you know, today’s work environment isn’t like this at all. The high pace of change and unpredictable nature of work demand a more fluid approach to organizing work. We can’t control how work gets done any more. This also doesn’t mean work should be completely disorganized, we need a new way of working.

The shift to outcomes

These days I advocate to describe outcomes instead of roles and responsibilities. A good set of outcomes describe the value an employee is asked to deliver and how those outcomes will be measured. They don’t describe how they are to be achieved. Given the unpredictable nature of work, it is better to leave employees to figure out the best way to achieve their goals. Managers and leaders can act as coaches to guide them along the way.

When was the last time you looked at your role and responsibilities? More importantly, do you have a good set of outcomes for your role?

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