Series: Six Fundamentals of Fast Growth (3)

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So, Roles and Responsibilities, one of the least sexy aspects of people management; yet one aspect, which if it is now managed correctly can lead to major conflict and even reduce company profitability!

So, a client sent us to Texas to work with a business that was not preforming. Clients were leaving and so were the team.  It’s so easy to see how to improve the profitability of a business when you are not directly involved. To cut a long story short, in this ‘team’ there were no clear expectations of the people and no roles and responsibilities defined. This created mass conflict and a toxic culture. People had to leave, roles were defined, the organisational structure was made ‘fit for purpose’ and the business got the exit it was seeking.

Leaders, be aware! ‘People know what they have to do’ just doesn’t cut it. A lack of clarity surrounding roles and responsibilities means in many cases that people do not feel accountable and so therefore do not take accountability.

So when you spend half of your time on the phone dealing with ‘fire-fighting’ and thinking that this isn’t my job and why do they not just get on with it; its’ often due to general lack of understanding that it is actually their responsibility. More often than not it is also due to the management style of the boss who may wish to approve and control everything.

Have you ever taken your leadership teams into the boardroom and listed everything you do as a business and ask who in the room is accountable for each area? Yes Finance and IT will be covered but in our experience many important areas will face a resounding silence. Having no accountability for high cost areas of the business is a simple way to drain profit and reduce profitability.

Accountability is critical. It’s important to ensure that senior management do not bottleneck growth. It is§ also important for the managers to feel valued and empowered. So, list everything you spend money on and agree what people can or cannot approve or spend. It may be simple but most companies these days have very little in place in terms of approvals matrices. If you cannot delegate accountability (not just tasks) don’t be surprised as the MD if you have to work 70 hours a week, as you cannot deliver growth alone. If you feel unable to delegate such accountability then question the team you have.

We talked in Session (2) about the right organisational model which supports where you want to get to (‘the strategy’). Many get the model designed, roll it out, but what is the point if your people do not know where their jobs start and finish? This is where the cross-functional conflict comes from; ‘that’s the sales team’s job, they win the work and just throw it over the fence’, ‘payroll always get the staff’s pay wrong’. Processes do not remove the need for communication but they do provide the structure required, which is why they were invented in the first place.

One of the biggest areas of conflict in a business is a lack of clarity surrounding roles and responsibilities. Many managers find it very difficult to put what they do on paper.

We often hear……..

‘The Ops Director keeps getting involved in my business, so I just step back and let him get on with it’

‘I have 3 jobs, and get to my day job around 5pm so I feel totally ineffective’

‘There is nothing strategic listed in our roles, so we simply go from fire to fire’

‘Three of us are accountable for managing IT, so inevitably things get dropped’

Roles and Responsibilities are like Values, you cannot just write them, they need to be embedded.

Sound familiar?

Effort and time is often made to develop roles and responsibilities and job descriptions for junior staff, but some senior management tend to prefer not to have ‘constraints’. Ever wondered why HR processes tend to stop when you reach management in many organisations?

If you want productivity and profitability then tell people what you need from them and more importantly put it in writing. This is equally important in SME’s with small overheads as large PLC firms where things simply get dropped.

Why would any company expect to grow if the staff don’t know what we want them to do, a ten minute discussion with a few tasks listed just does not cut it.

Get the fundamentals in place and head into advanced growth or plateau, fire fight and potentially go into decline. The choice is yours.

If you would like more information please drop us a line at:

Dean Hunter is Founder of Hunter Adams, a UK leading HR consultancy which grew 2000% in its first three years of trade and was recognised as ‘Best New Company’ in 2015 (Scottish Business Awards).