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20 Feb 2017

How to make role change work

by Melanie Franklin

This blog describes an important lesson I have learnt the hard way. As part of any transformation, roles need to change to reflect new ways of working. This is often accompanied by a restructuring of the relationships in teams or departments.

Whilst the roles get redesigned, and people are moved into these new roles, too often the scope and the responsibilities of the functional area that everyone is a part of gets left out. When this is missed, the consequences are:

  • Misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the scope and responsibilities of the department by those operating within it
  • Confusion about the scope and contribution of the department by others in the organisation
  • An open mandate that enables those leading the department to interpret their responsibilities in a way that suits them which usually means doing the things they like and ignoring the things they don’t want to do

To help embed the role changes, create a charter or a mandate for each functional area of the business that has to change. This charter sets out what the functional area does, and what it is not responsible for. It should describe the key relationships it has with other parts of the organisation: where it is a supplier to other parts of the organisation, and where it is a customer of them. The key steps are:

  • Get all of the leaders in a room and create the descriptions of their areas of responsibility collaboratively.
  • Iron out any areas of duplication and address any gaps whilst everyone is together.

Failure to define the responsibilities collaboratively results in shuttle diplomacy where you as the change agent will have to go back and forth trying to confirm where the boundaries are.

Another lesson is that if you fail to define these charters collaboratively at the start it is very had to get them defined retrospectively. The excuses you will hear include:

“I’m too busy doing the work to write down what we do.”

” We are already doing the work so no-one needs a description of what we do, they can see what we do.”

Have you had similar issues? What did you do to address them? Let me know your thoughts.

Melanie Franklin
20th February 2017