The current common mechanism to keep who is responsible for what id Job Descriptions (JD), But JD purpose is to protect the company when individuals are trying to sue it. JDs are not meant to provide visibility for who is responsible for what, what should be the expectations form him, how he is doing with reaching goals and to whom he needs to be connected to do his work. Job Descriptions exist in the HR system for different reasons.

Any tool that we are using has a fit for purpose, and JDs are no exception. They were created to “Deal with performance issues” (can’t even believe I wrote it), justify why we pay Anna a certain amount of money and peter different amount, or why we didn’t interview Samantha to a specific position. Their purpose created a long textual description of duties and most of the time also how someone expected to do them. They contain experience and education, so we can explain why we didn’t interview Cara. They meant to show what someone needs to do all day long to earn a certain amount of money.

Even if we want to use Job Descriptions as building blocks of our organization structure, we have a huge challenge because they are monolithic. Job descriptions are not reusable elements that can be used to build organizational structures. Their size also introduces a problem to keep them updated, to most of the time, there isn’t any correlation between one actual work and his job description.

Last, but not least Job description created to define what a person needs to do, not what the company needs. This gap is one of the common problems of organizations and it will always pup up if you’ll use synthesis, not analysis to find a root cause of an issue.

If you want to create a repository that will reflect the company needs, can be kept easily updated and will simply enable to find someone responsibilities or who is responsible for replacing the cartridge in the printing machine; The first thing that you need to do is to break Job Descriptions into smaller pieces of information. Welcome to functions!

Functions should be the smaller definitions that matter in an organizational structure. Functions should be grouped together to teams or groups. Teams and groups grouped into the hierarchical structure most of us are using.

The most crucial characteristic of a function is that it should define what needed to be done to reach a group purpose, not what a person should do. Usually, a function will be around a physical or virtual asset that the group is responsible for. Around this artifact, the function will define responsibilities, purpose and other pieces of information that help to understand what are the expectations from a person that is going to fill a function.

Most (~80%) of job descriptions are a set of two or more functions grouped for some reason. The first task is to break JDs into functions. The best way to do it is to actually throw away all JDs and just think what the functions needed to reach the group purpose are. It can be done by looking for assets required to achieve a purpose, but there are other methods for finding needed functions to reach a group purpose.

The other alternative is to break an existing Job description into functions. Let’s look at an example following the logic of assets.

The following example is taken from a public repository (https://www.betterteam.com/store-keeper-job-description)


Store Keeper

We are looking for an organized, experienced Store Keeper to be responsible for all stock, staff management, and planning promotional campaigns for the store.

To be successful as a Store Keeper you must be able to multitask and perform under pressure while remaining professional with customers. A good Store Keeper is able to manage stock by keeping a record of sales and ordering the required replacement items, occasionally making new product purchases that consumers may enjoy.

Store Keeper Responsibilities:

  • Keep a record of sales and restock the store accordingly.
  • Manage and train store staff.
  • Plan promotional campaigns for new products or specials.
  • Ensure that the store is kept clean and organized.
  • Mediate any confrontations between staff and clients, and de-escalate the situation.

Store Keeper Requirements:

  • Must be organized and punctual.
  • Well-presented and professional.
  • A high school qualification or equivalent.
  • Prior experience in retail, preferably in a management position, would be advantageous.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office.

It’s easy to see two assets in one job description. Stock and promotional campaigns. So following the logic below we can break this JD to two functions. Stockkeeper and promotional campaigns planer. Each one of them has dedicated purpose and assets.

After functions defined, you have to assign people to functions. You can follow the same assignments that you have today by assigning people to all the functions extracted from their current JD. One way or another, the most common scenario is that most people will be assigned to multiple functions.

Does more variety create more complexity? Yes! That’s why you must have a tool that can be used for multiple reasons I’m going to list below. One of them is the ability to get at each point of time what were all the accountability of each person. A dynamic job description.

What else you can do with a repository of functions?

  • It is easy to find: out who can help you, if you are doing someone else job, or if you expect someone to do something but he is not aware of it. This simple repository will improve clarity in your organization.
  • If you defined which functions need to be informed when you’re making a decision, taking action or progress through your project; the tool can automate it for you.
  • People with company knowledge, leaving the company. New people are joining. Information is power; sharing of information doesn’t come easily. Creating a company-wide repository is the only way to make this data available.
  • Historical data helped to learn a lot about trends and developments. This is also true to your organization structure data. You might be surprised how much correlation exists between functions and groups definitions and major business challenges. This data in a tool can prevent the past return in the future!
  • Try to model overlaps between roles across a company (use a circle to depict a function and line as connections between them). You’ll be amazed to find more overlaps than you thought (including full overlays) and missing links (even islands). A tool can do it faster!
  • There are many policies, procedures and other docs in any company. No one can read them all. Associating relevant legal documents to each function make it easy for people to focus on what they need.
  • A simulation tool can be used to see how separating accountabilities and managed assets between functions and collect roles in groups can impact the performance of your company
  • A tool enables you to collect building blocks that can be put together to create roles and different types of teams and groups. With a tool, it is much easier to use those building block to change an organization structure quietly.
  • A simple repository of roles, groups, and their definitions will improve clarity significantly in any organization. It’s like the butterfly effect, a small change with substantial long term impact.

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