I was recently asked to do a functionality assessment of a division of a highly successful insurance company and what I saw surprised me. Only 3 could correctly answer what the roles and rules of their position were (“correctness” was based on the executive team’s definition of roles and rules within the organization chart). Now keep in mind this was a Fortune 1000 company and the team was made up of 27 individuals.
Roles: What an individual is responsible for (i.e.: I am responsible for answering or returning all incoming calls, I am responsible for each contact being placed into the tracking system and given to one of the sales associates, and I am responsible for all open inventory and closing paperwork).
Rules: How the individual is expected to “fill” the responsibilities (I am expected to handle all phone contacts with “phone etiquette” protocol provided, I am expected to return all missed calls by the end of the shift, and I am expected to have all paperwork and tracking system information finished completely within 4 hours of initial system input).
I have had the rare good fortune of being a part several championship teams in both the athletic world and in the corporate arena. One of the patterns I have noticed with world class teams is that the roles and rules of each team-member are defined in a manner in which gaps and overlaps are eliminated.
Gaps: In sport, gaps are the equivalent of holes in the offense or defense. Gaps are exposed on defense when the opponent scores easily or “untouched”. In business, gaps manifest as bottlenecks or poor quality products or customer service.
Overlaps: On the field, overlaps are when two players take responsibility for one job and in sport this usually leads to gaps. In business overlaps will lead to gaps unless the organization is running “fat”. Either way overlaps indicate a lack of communication and execution of individual rules and roles within a team.
To eliminate gaps and overlap I strongly recommend the following exercise to all organizational leaders. If you are not on the management team complete step one of the exercise and ask your manager to look it over and provide feedback.
Identify: Ask each member of the team to answer the following 2 questions: The top 3 responsibilities of my position are…The top 3 rules (the expectations associated with how I will meet my responsibilities) for my position are…
Educate: Compare each team member’s answers with the answers the executive team has prepared for the same questions.
Motivate and Support: Provide motivation and support for those individuals needing assistance with the accomplishment of individual roles or rules.
Defining roles and rules doesn’t have to be a labor intensive activity. Set an hour aside to address the issue and watch the organization begin to immediately run more efficiently and productively.