Understanding Team Roles and Responsibilities
When there is a lack of understanding of the roles and responsibilities of your team members there is usually confusion, inefficiencies, and conflict.
Here is a team exercise to shine the light on who is doing what and how the roles of your team intersect. The larger the team, the more time and space you will need.
You can do this activity for a variety of reasons and change the questions or the debrief. It could be useful to:
- First, understand the roles of each team member
- Secondly, visualize how the team member’s roles intersect
- Thirdly, identify duplication or redundancies
- Next, chart out the flow of processes
- Then, identify potential bottlenecks
- Afterwards, evaluate equity in responsibilities
- Next, think about how to better distribute responsibilities
- Lastly, look for ways to support each other
- First, give each team member an 8x11 piece of paper.
- Second, ask each person to write their name and job title at the top of the paper.
- Thirdly, ask them to list the 3-5 KEY roles they are responsible for. (They should not list every task, but instead key roles.) For example, a key role would be “manage logistics for company meetings,” not “reserve the room, order the food, send out the invites.”
- Then, a tape of the papers forming a large circle on a large whiteboard or butcher paper.
- Next, go around the circle and ask each person to share their key roles. The team can ask questions and/or make suggestions to add/delete/or change the key roles until everyone on the team agrees about what is written on each person’s paper.
- Afterwards, each person should choose a different color marker. If the team is large and two people share the marker, one can draw a line and another can draw dashes to signify whose line belongs to whom. Create a legend listing each person’s name and their color/line style.
- Next, go around the circle a second time. As the team review’s each role, anyone who delivers or supports that person in their key tasks should draw a line from their paper to the paper of the role they support using their unique color/style. Be sure to draw an arrow at the end of the line pointing towards the paper to which something is provided for that role. In small letters along the line, write what is provided. Repeat until all the roles have been reviewed.
- Then, stand back and look at the work and flow of work.
- Here are potential debrief questions to ask:
- What have you learned about the roles on this team that surprised you?
- What, if any, red flags do you notice about our roles and responsibilities?
- Could something be streamlined or simplified?
- Is there anything missing?
- What, if anything, could be reorganized or redistributed to increase efficiency?
This is an exercise that will take some time and might involve some negotiation and conflict management skills.
It is important that there is enough time to do this thoroughly and to spend the time debriefing it to ensure value is gained from this activity.
If the team is large (more than 10 people) consider doing this in sub-teams, rather than as one large circle. If you have a few sub-teams, you can then draw lines to connect sub-teams.
A challenge might be the space especially in teams with more than 8 people. If a large whiteboard or wall is not available, consider using tape and strings.
What are other ways to discuss roles and responsibilities? Please share in the comments below.
About the Author: Leigh Ann Rodgers, Founder of Better Teams and Forward, is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator with 20 years of experience in the human development field. Leigh Ann is a skilled meeting facilitator, trainer, and coach working across the globe to help leaders cultivate teams that are happy and high-performing.
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