How to define dynamic functions that replace static job descriptions

I already explained why you should drop Job Description and start to use Functions to define people accountabilities. In this post, I’ll focus on how to set a function.

In a nutshell, a function is s set of accountabilities and assets that can be done by one person to achieve a defined purpose. It is common that as the company grows, a function can’t be done anymore by one person and will split into a group of functions. There are rare occasions that the opposite might happened and a group will collapse into one function.

A function is a set of accountabilities, managed assets, measure metrics, events, interaction with other functions and rules or models that a person will follow in response to either 1) feedback received from other people or 2) an event that occurs within the internal or external environment.

All functions are unique. Their uniqueness defined by their purpose, responsibilities and managed assets.

The easiest way to find your function is to start on the company level and list all functions that needed to reach the company purpose. Then, define all function attributes as explain below. After you’ve done with all definition, you can apply the rule above to determine if this is a function or a group. For every group, you need to repeat those steps recursively until you end up just with functions. Groups can contain subgroups and functions.

Every function must have a Purpose! The purpose should be derived from the company purpose or from the group purpose. A Purpose should define what the function should do. For example, I’m filling a function with a purpose to increase Galaxies exposure in social media. As I mentioned above, at one point in time, this function will be split into many functions and become a group.

Managed assets. Each function should have a list (or more common one assets) that they are managing and responsible for. It doesn’t mean that other people cant use this asset. It means that the person who is filling the function is responsible for those assets. For example, as the person who is filling our social media awareness function; I’m responsible for HootSuite (a tool that schedules posts to social media channels).

A list of responsibilities. Each function should have at least two responsibilities that define what to expect from the person who is filling the function. If you can come with one responsibility to a function, it is probably not a function. If the list has 20 or more accountabilities, you might define a group. My function has several responsibilities:

  • Create authentic content each day
  • Publish at least 3 posts per social channel day
  • Convert content from other functions into social media posts and publish it
  • Defining what content will be released, to which platform and when

The list is longer than the above examples, but I believe these examples are enough to understand responsibilities.

A list of events that trigger the function to respond. Any function has known events that happened on daily, weekly, monthly or yearly frequency. List those known events help the person who is filling the function and others to understand what to expect from a function. In our example, every response on the social media channel is an event for the function I’m filling. Every day is an event for this function, as it required to plan what I’m going to release and where.

A set of rules or models that the function will follow in response to an event. As I mentioned above every event usually has a list of instructions or a system that perform a list of known instructions for a given event. Those rule (single instruction) and models (set of instructions) should be part of the function definition. For example, every response in social media required me to contact the relevant function that being mentioned and get her/his response before posting back on social media.

A list of relationships to other functions. Nothing in a system works in separation. Each function has dependencies on other functions, and other functions have dependencies on a function you are filling. This web of connections defines the complexity of the work that someone is going to deal with when he/she is filling a function. Those dependencies must capture and keep updated. They are not just a way to understand complexity; they are going to improve communication within your group and organization. My function depends on the marketing function and branding function, and both of them depend on me.

Metrics. Without continuous feedback don’t expect people to know where they are and move the needle. With subjective feedback given by one person, people are not responsive as well. Metrics should be simple and easy to collect numbers that should be part of the function definition and always be available for everyone to see the progress. For example, the social awareness function has a metrics that measure the number of posts per day, the % of posts that has the responses and the number of hits on our website.

Feedbacks. This property is not part of the function’s definition, but it is useful data that should keep updated with the function definition. Numbers are not enough to understand trends and difficulties. Capturing feedbacks from other functions that consume function services is a better way to understand why the metrics indicate one direction or another.

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