What is my role exactly? (Part 1)

Bob ILP 2 Comments

You know, it’s funny. At the start of a workshop, as part of an icebreaker, we often ask the people in the room to raise their hands if and only if they fully understand what they’re currently responsible for, if they really know what the full scope of their job is.

In general, only around 10% of people put their hands up, which tells us that something strange is happening today in the world of work; that we have a situation where a majority of professionals are not actually clear what their role is, what they should be prioritising on a day-to-day basis.

Now I’m sure we’ll agree that this problematic. After all, if people don’t know what they’re responsible for, they may end up doing the wrong thing. What’s more, if I don’t know what my role is, then you can’t know, which is going to make collaboration difficult. The risk for companies in this context is clear – inefficiency, conflict due to poor cooperation; the risk for people is also clear – stress and lower motivation.

So, let’s take a few minutes to think about this – the nature of our roles in today’s organisation, because we need to understand why this uncertainty is happening, and how to handle it.

Now, part of the issue is that roles and jobs today are no longer as static as they were in the past. In fact, roles have become highly dynamic. Why? Well, think about it. Organisations are constantly transforming. New technologies are regularly emerging. Customers make new demands every day. So, what we did yesterday at work is no longer a guarantee of what we need to do tomorrow. Roles and responsibilities constantly have to adapt.

And there’s another factor – agile. Organisations have gone agile in a big way in the last decade. Defining plans and then delivering on plans is no longer seen as the best way to do business. People are now asked to work in much shorter and more creative cycles, inventing and reinventing their roles and priorities on a weekly basis sometimes.

And don’t forget, financial pressures are still very high – crisis is never far away these days. As a result, companies remain highly cost focused and look for opportunities to downsize all the time, trying to do the same work with fewer people. What does this mean. Our responsibilities keep growing and expanding. In fact, the scope of many roles, I sense, has almost doubled in the last ten years. No wonder we struggle to define what we should be doing with so much on our plate.

So, roles have become very very fuzzy – for a number of reasons – and actually, interestingly, for a number of very good reasons. And this last point is very important, because fuzziness may not be a sign of failure. It may simply be our new reality – a new way of working in the modern age – what we can call ‘a new normal.’. Which means, if you have a classical job description, you can probably throw it out the window, because it simply won’t capture the dynamic scope of what you have to do.

So, if this is the case, how do we define our role? What does a job look like in the 21st century, where classical job descriptions don’t apply? In Part 2, I’ll present a new way to think about your role, a kind of new age job design, with practical ideas on how you can perform in this kind of role as effectively as possible. So, if you want to know what your role really looks like today, and how to do it, sign in to Part 2.

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