12 actionable items to increase the clarity of roles and responsibilities within organizations

In this post, I’m going to share actionable items that I saw working for increasing visibility of roles and responsibilities within an organization.


How do you expect clarity if all definitions of who is responsible for what are not available for everyone in an organization? Those definitions should be publicly available. They must also be EASILY searchable to everyone in the organization. Organize it any way you want and working for your organization, make it available to anyone working in your organization! Responsibilities should be unique per role or group. The only exception is a group or role that get a subset of the parent group responsibilities.

Each group should have a purpose derived from the company purpose or a group it is part of. Each person should have a purpose derive from the group purpose. Purposes of groups & people must be publicly available for anyone within the company. Make sure that the same or close purpose is not defined for two (or more) individuals or groups. Groups purpose might and should be a subset of the contained group.

Metrics are an excellent way to show the progress of individuals and groups. All metrics of people and group need to be publicly available so that anyone can see the progress of groups and people. To make it consumable for people and easy to maintain, don’t define more than 5 metrics (calculate numbers) per person or group. Make sure metrics indicate what the progress toward a given purpose is.

Every person in the company should know what the mechanism to resolve conflict is and whom he should approach when he has a conflict. Don’t make any assumption on this info, make it clear! If you think that it is clear how disputes should be resolved, don’t make any assumption that other people know it as well. They are not!

Every person manages one or several of the company resources (physical and virtual). It’s not enough that he knows it; everyone should know who is manage which resource. There is a common assumption that people understand what other resources people are responsible for. Yet, I didn’t see any organization that one role/group claim they are responsible for customers.

Each role has several events that they need to respond to as part of their work. Knowing which events a role should respond to and what is the expected response (what steps should be followed per event) create more clarity around the expectations from a function. Make this data publicly available as well. Define role events and set of tasks/steps it should take to respond to each event.

A System is a collection of interacting parts or agents. Defining all interactions of each role gives more clarity to the person filling the role and the people interacting with him. In the stress of a business day, it’s hard to remember who depend on you. Validating this data make sure that all dependent roles defined.

This one is obvious, but not necessarily implemented in most of the companies. Exposing working tasks and projects status to all internal roles and customers, depending on them, will create a lot of clarity around projects and their progress. Find a way to make it simple for people to consume. A list of many tasks is not what you want to expose to role’s customers.

Majority of companies have company-wide policies and principles, few define them for groups as well. All policies and principles that a person need to follow as a result of the number of roles he is filling should always be accessible to him in a fast and simple way. Otherwise, don’t expect him to follow them. Keeping all policies in a 100 page PDF will not help. Even if people will have to sign them every year, they won’t read them.

Paradoxically the informal network of connections at work is known to anyone, the organization structure and the hierarchal lines need more help. The informal network is natural and people learn and memorize it, The formal structure is not. The formal organization structure is more challenging in matrix organizations. Display a tree with hundreds of nested group will not create any visibility, just more confusion. Find interactive ways how to search and see a portion of the hierarchy structure that applies to someone specific and changing needs.

Many people are filling “roles” that they didn’t hire for, such as the fire warden, the party organizer, the volunteering coordinator. Those roles need to be defined and published like any other role. First, Any role takes time, and people need to know the entire picture of what people are responsible for. Second people also need to know who is the party organizer.

Knowing is not enough, suggesting and reporting potential area of unclarity is a must as well. People need to express clarity concerns. Otherwise, they will keep their concerns to themselves. Make sure that there is a simple and easy mechanism for people to raise any concern about a group or role clarity.

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