How to Design in Change through Role Clarity

Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

Recently I have shared several articles to help you determine if your Organization is Designed to Change, whether it is Embracing or Rejecting Change, and How Culture Shines a Light on Organizational Misalignment. This article continues our journey to envision a new way to purposefully design and align your organization to handle the ever-changing market and economy. This week we are going to focus on role clarity and why it matters in your journey to purposefully design your organization to embrace Change.

Let’s start by reviewing the following statements:

  • The people in my organization understand their role in change and act accordingly (for example if an employee gets stuck or needs help we have ways to manage it and to keep progressing)
  • My organization has role clarity around who is responsible for implementing, monitoring, and reinforcing change initiatives
  • The people in my organization are empowered to help identify and mitigate risks or issues that will limit or prevent change initiative success (for example we have ways of working or cadence in place to identify and resolve risks or issues)

Is there anything here that specifically stands out for the people in your organization?  As I stated in my article on Embracing or Rejecting Change the organization’s ability to handle change depends on understanding and addressing expectations for your people. Or simply put – establishing role clarity to enable conversations between leaders and employees that address expectations with purpose.

Unstated expectations and assumptions will cause problems and issues in your organization. For example, if your organization has an expectation that all employees are customer advocates does it also show up in each department goal list, every leader goal list, and every employee job description? Or is it just something we say in meetings but we don’t reinforce it anywhere else in the structure? Purposeful design embeds the expectations within all organizational structures.

Providing clarity on the role of every department and each position in your organization is critical to implementing a purposeful design that can handle the ever-changing economy.  Stated expectations are documented in the organizational structure artifacts and aligned with the actions of every employee. This establishes the foundation of expectations for behavioral norms necessary to influence how people interact inside the organization and reinforce actions.  Here are some ideas for providing role clarity:

  1. Connect the dots for employees and departments by embedding expected norms into every artifact that establishes roles, responsibilities, and performance measurement.
  2. Take purposeful action during the on boarding of new employees to check and balance role clarity by asking them to review and share gaps or issues with documented artifacts and interactions they have with employees
  3. Schedule events to discuss gaps or issues with expectations and provide a forum to re-calibrate
  4. Incorporate feedback into every documented artifact and re-calibrate norms on expectation setting and actionable reinforcement – make sure you incorporate the suggestions from my article on How Culture Shines a Light on Organizational Misalignment as well to weave in the “Why” with the norm expectations

As you dive deeper into providing clarity be careful not to limit the role of every department and each position. Many organizations establish departments as islands with their own budget and goals. This method of creating swim lanes and boundaries between departments has not changed much since industrialization. Hierarchy, rules, and complexity make change and adaptability difficult. Focus on how those roles and departments are expected to interact with each other versus creating distinct separation of duties. Try these four things as a starting point:

  1. Identify opportunities for shared goals and/or outcomes across departments and roles to improve collaboration – remove all opportunity for a single department to operate as an island
  2. Link the shared goals and/or outcomes to commission, bonus, or other incentives and recognition – regularly celebrate success
  3. Establish cross-department innovation teams to identify market trends that may trigger purposeful change and opportunities to improve internal operations
  4. Act on market trends and operational improvements through purposeful change by re-calibrating department and employee roles as needed

Remember the success of our change handling in the future depends on understanding and purposefully addressing expectations through role clarity.

Next week I will focus on identifying trends that further illuminate misalignment in your organization and how to shift your approach to address it.

Jennifer Jacober