For Better Teams, Forget Roles

One of the more insidious traditional organizational habits is the continued and anachronistic practice of establishing and clarifying "roles."  

In the Industrial Era where workplaces could be engineered into fairly predictable environments, roles made sense. People were told what their "job" was and they did it. Because change was aggressively controlled for, roles were dependable formulas for success. They required neither peer agreement nor frequent adaptability as change was not a constant. Peers were unwelcome to do "other people's work" or to ask peers to do any of "their work." They were constellations of unquestioned assumptions about how things work and get done.

In this age of unprecedented complexity, connection and change, fixed and dictated role formulas are the shortest distance to a culture of dysfunction, discontent and disrespect. 

Instead we teach people how to be more mindful and less mindless in how they go about their dynamic and intrinsically connected contexts. We don't talk about roles. We talk about what everyone decides and does together. We work from agreement rather than assumptions. We do this in the rhythm that best aligns with the tempos and cadences of our work and world. This can mean in daily, bi-weekly, weekly or every two week sprints.

  • We decide together what needs to get done and when
  • We decide together who knows the most for the decisions at hand
  • We decide together who are the most experienced and available for what needs to be done.

This makes us agile, mindful and smarter together. Trying to work by predefined roles leads to being more unadaptive, mindless and less intelligent together. When we work from our collective strengths, it makes personal weaknesses irrelevant in our work. We do our best work and have our best impacts.