Do You Have the Right People in the Right Roles?

Have you ever seen two outfielders run right into one another while trying to catch a fly ball? That sort of collision happens on a daily basis inside most organizations. Without a clear understanding of one’s roles and responsibilities, ardent employees rush to catch every fly ball. Meanwhile, apathetic employees simply dismiss their responsibility because of a perceived overlap. To make sure you’re making the best use of everyone on the team, you must constantly review and revise their accountabilities to make sure they’re still relevant to the changing work at hand.

If you find that your team needs more tightly defined roles and domains, gather your team together and try NOBL’s “Role Call:”

  1. Using one index card per item, write down tasks or information you need from other team members. This could be anything from “Sign off on budget reports” to “Deliver presentation.” Depending on how large your team is, this could take some time, so to keep it manageable, focus on a limited time window (e.g., this month versus this quarter).

  2. Exchange cards with team members. Give these cards to their respective owners, and take any cards that they have for you.

  3. Sort your cards. Now that you’ve received your required tasks from everyone else on the team, take a few minutes to review them. You’ll probably find a fair amount of overlap, so go ahead and sort them into themes, like “Budget Approver.” These are your roles—the tasks and information that you are responsible for.

  4. Share out with the team. Go around the room and share your newly defined roles. If you notice an overlap, this is the perfect time to discuss how to better divvy up the work. It’s also a quick way to check for motivation—if someone seems disinterested in one of their domains, ask them if they’d like to relinquish the task, and see if anyone else is willing to take it on.  

  5. Identify what you need to complete your tasks. Now that everyone knows what they’re supposed to do, take some time to figure out what you need access to, or ownership of, in order to do it. This is your domain. If you’re responsible for the budget, for instance, you may need access to expense accounts, and ownership of the bank account. Your first step after completing Role Call should be to get these set up so that you can get started right away.

While you can do this activity at any time, we find it particularly helpful:

  1. At the Project Kickoff, when you’re breaking down the work and assigning owners to each task.

  2. During 1:1s, when team members are asked to reflect on their work.

  3. In Team Retros, which offer each member an opportunity to discuss their role.

  4. And to a lesser extent, during Monday Planning Meetings, when the team gets specific about their tasks for the week.


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