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Role definition

- for organizations

A tool to align individual roles to an organizational change.

Why employees need clear roles.

A clear role definition helps employees to know exactly what is expected of them. When employees have a clearly defined role, they:

  • Feel confident about what they are doing.
  • Focus their time and energy on doing the tasks that are important to their boss and to the organization.
  • Avoid wasting time on tasks that are unimportant or irrelevant to the organization.
  • Spend less time protecting their turf, or on trying to work out what their priorities are.
  • Feel less stressed because they know exactly what their priorities are, and what is important for them to do.

Organizational changes require a change in roles.

Usually employees know what is expected of them. But when an organization changes, people's roles need to change in order to align what they do to the change being made in the organization.

Organizational changes that require changes to roles.

You will need to work on roles whenever you:

  • Develop a new strategy.
  • Create a new structure to support that new strategy.
  • Use a role cascading exercise to align what people do to your organizational change.
  • Introduce new projects and project teams to support a new strategy.
  • Change a structure to save costs.
  • Appoint new leaders or new teams.
  • Focus on new goals or priorities.
  • Change a business model or organizational design.
  • Implement a new IT system or process.
  • Introduce a performance management process.
  • Develop different levels of leadership in the organization.
  • Change the culture of an organization so people are more responsible or accountable.

Consequences of not doing a role definition exercise as part of an organizational change.

Often in a change, employees try to continue with the status quo while taking on additional responsibilities in line with the organizational change. This creates a number of problems for employees and leaders who:

    When people are no longer clear about their roles, the organization loses focus. People stop performing, get stressed, and the status quo remains.
  • Find they have too many responsibilities.
  • Become confused about what is expected of them. Some people expect them to keep doing what they used to do. Others expect them to take on new roles. They no longer know what exactly is expected of them.
  • Resolve their role ambiguity by doing whatever seems most urgent. This means they often have no time left to do what is important.
  • Stop performing.
  • Get stressed.

The end result is the status quo remains. The benefits that the organization was supposed to get from their new strategy, structure or organizational change never gets realized.

Cascading a role definition exercise throughout your organization.

A powerful tool for getting everyone aligned to an organizational change, is a cascading role clarification exercise.

Beginning at the top, the most senior leader:

  • Identifies core roles he needs to focus on in the future.
  • Identifies the non core roles that he can delegate, outsource or stop doing.

He negotiates his own core roles with important stakeholders.

He then:

  • Communicates the core roles he will be focusing on to his direct reports.
  • Specifies what he expects each of his subordinates to focus on in the future. This includes some of the roles he wants to delegate as well as roles they need to take on to support the organizational change.

Each direct report goes through a similar role clarification exercise until everyone at every level has redefined their role.

Role definition tool- an easy way for people to clarify their roles.

Our easy to use role definition tool helps people at all levels to analyse the roles they play, or may be expected to play to support an organizational change. It helps each person to categorize his roles into those that are core to his success, and those that he can either delegate, postpone, or stop doing altogether.


How the role definition tool works.

Each person in the cascading process begins by asking his stakeholders what they expect from him. With this knowledge, he begins using the role definition tool.

Bearing in mind the change your organization is making as well as the current expectations his stakeholders have of him, each leader and each subordinate thinks about all the roles he may need to play for the year ahead. As he thinks of each role, he adds the name the role into the tool.


Once he has added all the possible roles that he thinks he may be expected to play, he assigns a category to each role.

Then, using the filter buttons, he looks at how many roles he has under each category. (Usually people have too many core roles, and too many roles they feel that only they can do.) We recommend that if they have more than 5 core roles, they look at either delegating or outsourcing some of their roles. This forces them to focus on the 20% of roles that will give them 80% success. It also encourages leaders to delegate.


At any stage, the person can quickly edit a role and change its category.

Setting expectations - the power of success criteria and measurement indicators.

For each core role, each person defines the success criteria or quality standards he will meet, as well as how he will measure his success in performing that role.


The report feature - makes it easy to communicate roles.


A click on the roles report button, allows each person to create a report of all his roles.

In the report, roles are grouped under their categories with the core roles being at the top of the list.

Each person can copy and paste his report into a Word document.

He can also edit and update his roles quickly after a negotiation with his boss or stakeholders. This means he always has an up to date, clear focus of what is expected of him. His role is stored in the cloud, so he can view it anytime, on whatever device he has handy - his smart phone, tablet or computer.

Benefits of cascading a role definition exercise throughout your organization.

By clarifying or redefining roles at every level of the organization, you can achieve the following benefits.
  • Help reduce stress caused by a lack of focus and role ambiguity.
  • Help everyone in your organization to focus on the 20% of tasks that will generate 80% success.
  • Help the organization to focus on what must be done to implement a new strategy, structure or change.
  • Create more time for your leaders to think and plan and implement.
  • Improve quality of work done.
  • Reduce duplication of work.
  • Reduce work done on tasks that add no value to the company.
  • Save costs. Less people are able to achieve more with a clearer focus.
  • Prevent conflict that is often associated with unclear roles and responsibilities.
  • Improve the relationship between each leader and his direct reports through the negotiation of roles and expectations.
  • Build confidence. With clear roles cascaded throughout the organization, everyone knows exactly what is expected of them.
  • Prepare an organization for a performance culture. Clarifying roles throughout the organization is a first step in any performance management system.

What the role definition tool provides that you can't get from anywhere else.

  • A quick way to document roles.
  • An easy way to sort roles into categories, and to view each category.
  • An easy way to choose the 20% of roles that will contribute to 80% of your success.
  • An easy way to ensure you don't focus on too many roles at once.
  • A quick way to update roles as priorities change.
  • A tool for updating and reviewing your roles on multiple devices - phone, tablet or computer.
  • An easy way to generate a report - each time your roles change.

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