Readers of this BLOG have heard me go on about the importance of roles in the management of talent issues. In this posting I will be elaborating somewhat on what I mean regarding roles especially in the context of of another well used concept: “Jobs”.
Jobs in the main describe the incumbent side of roles. One way to see this is to think of what we often see in job descriptions or statements (sometimes they are even called role descriptions/statements).:
- a statement on what the incumbent is expected to deliver
- a statement list of some of the priority activities/tasks
- a statement on the skills, knowledge, experience, accreditation, etc. the incumbent is expected to bring to the job.
Roles in the manner that I think of them encompass the “Job” view along with the other important components that together enable the incumbent to actually deliver on the set of expectations. These include:
- linked information systems
- linked physical and ergonomic systems
- linked adjacent supportive roles (or at least roles that “impact” role performance)
- linked behavioural “norms” expectations
- connection to the broader business process system
The reason I believe roles are critical is I have witnessed (even participated in) the following situations:
- Seen very capable people become disappointments when they move into a similar role in another context (e.g., change employers, change district offices). Lesson: individual performance is contingent on a broader context than “job”.
- Seen people who are deemed “so so” at best become stars when they move into a similar role in another context and suddenly become stars. Lesson: individual performance is contingent on a broader context than “job”.
- Seen performance shift dramatically (positively/negatively) when changes are made to linked or adjacent systems or roles with the same incumbents. Lesson: Context is critical in determining performance.
- Seen differences in role performance with changes in people in them (Yes, who is in the job can be significant!). Lesson: always need to focus on who fills the role.
- Seen little changes in behaviour (especially dysfunctional behaviour) when numerous changes in incumbents (who have diverse temperaments, values, etc.)occur over time. Lesson: support and adjacent role attributes can be powerful forces that shape behaviour into predictable focused patterns.
Because I have observed the above phenomena numerous times over the years, I have developed a strong appreciation that job design and capable incumbents do not begin to help us determine overall performance.
I have moved my attention to the context that human work is done and I call these roles.
I have learned that the way we set up roles in business processes determines numerous performance related consequences:
- the degree of politicking
- the impact of different individual capabilities on performance (do we make room for stars to deliver star performance?)
- the ability to have people do what they are paid to do well and efficiently
This is why I have grown to appreciate the comprehending power of the 9 window system view technique. It has helped me and my clients to understand more appreciatively the talent management issues they have and how to begin effectively working on them.