Role Definition Workshops
March 5, 2018

Role Definition Workshops – from tasks to the roles needed (part 2)

By Hanne Sorteberg

This is part 2 of guest blogger, Hanne Sorteberg’s, series on Role Definition Workshops.

I hope part 1 was useful to you. In this post, Hanne goes on to explain how to get from your long list of tasks, to the roles you need.

As we start a month, focussed on Data Science, organising teams into the roles needed, is as relevant as ever. We have seen, in both Hanne’s previous post on Data Science, and other resources I’ve shared, that the right mix of roles matters.

So, let’s return to Hanne’s guidance, on role definition workshops. We pick up her advice, just after you have produced, your total list of 40-100 team tasks.

Group the tasks into main tasks and estimate them

A facilitator should group tasks, as a preparation for the next workshop. A way to do this, is to register all the tasks in excel, and add a main task column. Group the tasks by adding a pivot table. The number of main tasks should be around 15 to 20.

The second workshop, is to review the main tasks and estimate them. Present the suggested grouping of tasks, to the group. Spend time revising the grouping, together with the team. The team may add or remove tasks and regroup.

Estimate the amount of time, each main task requires, in percentage of an FTE (Full Time Employee). Let the wisdom of the crowd provide an educated guess.

Role Definition Workshops: Group main tasks into roles

Role Definition Workshops 1In preparation for this workshop, write the main tasks up, on large stickies, with a short description and estimated effort.

Draw the axes on a whiteboard. As a group, place the main tasks on the board, according to their placement along the axes.

Discuss which main tasks are related, and can make up a role. Consider if any special skills are required for this role.

It is better to have more roles than fewer, to allow for flexibility in defining job descriptions later on. Try to define 5 – 7 roles, no role should require less than 20% of a man-year.

Role examples:

Role Definition Workshops 2

Role Definition Workshops: Assign roles to your team

Assigning roles to team members is typically not a team exercise. It is a task best performed by the team/department manager, in conversation with each employee.

Several team members can perform one role, and one person can have multiple roles. For example, to answer customer calls may be estimated to 3 FTE, and need to be covered by at least three employees. A technical support role may only be estimated to 30% of a FTE, and can be combined with other roles that are less than a FTE.

The point is that no role should exceed a full time year. If roles are combined, they should be related and not stretch the role holder too far, related to the axes.

Role Definition Workshops 3Often, when adding up the estimated FTE numbers, the sum is higher than the team’s capacity. If that is the case, and your estimates are correct, this leaves the team manager with two choices – take tasks away or get more resources.

Any other solution is fooling yourself and your company.

With a workload that is greater than your teams capacity you have lost the power to prioritize the effort of your team.

It is at each members discretion to choose what to do among too many tasks for the time available.

The roles, with the main tasks and subtasks they are made up of, make the foundation of your team member’s job descriptions.

Role Definition Workshops: Further steps

You don’t have to stop here, to define your team better. Some tips for further work:

Define your main processes. Do process definitions and map the roles to the process steps. Here is an example:

Swim lane

A (or swimlane diagram) is used in process flow diagrams, or flowcharts, that visually distinguishes job sharing and responsibilities for sub-processes of a business process. Swimlanes may be arranged either horizontally or vertically. The swim lane flowchart differs from other flowcharts in that processes and decisions are grouped visually by placing them in lanes.

Define your organizational boundaries in dialog with departments you work with

Define responsibilities in a RACI model:

Responsibility assignment matrix

A responsibility assignment matrix ( RAM), also known as RACI matrix () or linear responsibility chart ( LRC), describes the participation by various roles in completing tasks or deliverables for a project or business process. RACI is an acronym derived from the four key responsibilities most typically used: responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed.

Develop a clear process to prioritize your tasks. This method works best with teams of 3 – 7 people. For larger teams, divide the team into groups that run this process in parallel – combining results at the end.

This is one of many ways to work with teams – what are your experiences on what works? Does work, on continuously balancing the teams, justify the effort?

Thanks to Hanne for another practical post & some useful CPD resources.