Job Design: 10 Questions to Answer Before Creating New Role

Job Design

In organizations, every day new roles are created and not so effective ones are removed. In the process, lot of times, bad roles are designed. This drains the organizations and often cause the organizations to go bad, lose money and perform terribly.

You can avoid these, by considering the following simple check list.

1. Job description can be explained in elevator pitch

To play a role the employee needs to understand the role description. Better is the role design, easier it is to understand it. Every employee needs to have clarity on the main focus of the role. As the organizations and the businesses have become complex, the roles also have become complex. There is element of vagueness in many roles. However, for the entry level people, the role must be very clear. The business value of the role needs to be clear. And it needs to be aligned with organization direction.

As much as possible, avoid making roles a collection of miscellaneous tasks.

2. Expectations are well understood

Every role in the organization produces something (right?). These may be as clear as products or as vague as just review comments. Defining clear deliverables is the most critical step. Other factors are the secondary ones in helping to achieve this objective of the role.

If you can not do this, go back to #1. You may not have done a great job there.

3. Stakeholders – Customers are identified:

Everyone has a customer – internal or external. Are they defined? Does the role have access to these customers? If the answer is no, state the reasons and describe how this gap is plugged.

4. Stakeholders – Suppliers are identified:

Some roles work on the output of some other roles. There is dependency on these roles. Many times there is a process defined which states the relation between the deliverables of various roles. Examples would be – ‘user interface designer’ is the supplier for ‘UI implementer’.

This may seem obvious. Explicitly identifying supplier helps in identifying bottlenecks and review how these roles are structured. It may lead to bundling into same team. If not, it helps to keep the goals & targets more realistic.

5. Stakeholders – Supporting teams are identified ‘above’ and ‘below’

Most roles need support of other individuals and teams. This is distinct from supplier and less defined. The support required is ‘softer’ in nature than supplier deliverables. These include, but not limited to – influence, knowledge and buy-in for a cross-functional initiative.

Every role will have at least one such team/individual. You need to take into confidence this set of people also. Also this helps in identifying the persona needed to succeed in the role.

6. Balance Of Authority and Responsibility/Accountability

Every role needs to have authority of some kind and it depends on the role. Once the authority is known, the individual playing the role can take decisions within her limits.

If authority is lot more than responsibility, it may be misused to exploit other roles. If the balance is on the other extreme, the role may suffer due to bullying by other roles.

Funnily, there are many roles in the organizations have highly skewed balance. There are very diverse justifications for this. Best I heard – it is a cross functional role and hence it can not better. If this is truly the case, then the owner of job design needs to ensure that the balance is achieved through other means. Possibly, escalations by the role may be taken seriously and top management will step in when needed.

If the role is properly balanced, it is the best situation. The top management can let it run without having to step in. Efficiency will increase by a great degree.

7. Stakeholders understand the role and appreciate the need

Sometimes organizations try to be too creative and define complex roles. Most of the stakeholders do not understand the role. Even when the stakeholders wish, they do not know how they can help. No one has explained them. They may even interpret that it is not a serious role and calibrate their cooperation. If it is serious role, the manager has to put effort to align the stakeholder.

8. Stakeholders have genuine business interest in partnering for the role

Partnering helps the stakeholders to achieve their goals. Many partnerships in organizations are not necessarily win-win.

I have seen structure set up in such a way that the roles are turned against each other. Ex: software development lead and test lead. One has the mandate to allow least defects and the other to identify maximum defects. There is nothing wrong with this setup. However, things can become terrible depending upon the stake. If these two leads are force fitted in Bell curve and if the stake is zero pay hike with possible loss of job and 20% hike. In this imagine, another role is created at the same level to say – reduce defects. You can not get support from test lead and there is more politics.

In such cases, the new role is not worth it. If you are experimenting, well. Be clear about it.

9. Stakeholders have the ability to support the role in expected way

There are roles with big targets created. Structure is defined and presented. But for success, ensure that the supporting teams are qualified. If it is not qualified currently, is gaining the competencies in the charter of the supporting team? There is no perfect team. However having the alignment at charter-level is critical for the success of the role, work environment and success of the organization.

10. Overlap with other roles is identified. Avoided whenever possible.

Large organizations have big pool of management talent. Unfortunately when it comes to the factor of creating unique roles, large organizations fair poorly. Overlap of responsibility is seen everywhere. Golden word – avoid it.

If this is unavoidable, identify which roles in the organization have the same goal. Collaborate and define win-win criteria and get the buy in from upper layers. Cutting through organization bureaucracy requires lot of energy. Multiple people playing same role might still make sense. Never leave it open though.

Sorry. These are not applicable in my organization. It is complex and has many dynamics !

Large organizations have many roles which do not meet the above criteria. If you see the roles which meet the above are in high demand. Everyone competes for the same roles. If you create more roles which meet the criteria, it is a great service to the organization and to the society. If you can not meet the criteria above, do not proceed.

Deciding not to create such roles itself is a big contribution!!

If you still need to create not so effective roles, at least be realistic about the outcome. About the outcome of bad job design, I have some thoughts here.

Any thoughts?