One of the greatest tools in any leader’s toolbox is much-maligned, and much overlooked: the humble job description. (And yes, I’m fully aware that with those two words I’ve already lost two-thirds of you, who immediately clicked away to find something more interesting to read.) But think about this: what would even the most elite sports team performance be like if they arrived on the field with only the vaguest – and out of date – ideas of what their own and each other’s role was on the field?
Similarly, would you wish to be operated on by a team of surgeons and nurses who fumbled and bumbled their way into the operating theatre, obviously confused about who exactly does what, tripping over each other, duplicating vital activities and omitting others in their confusion?
And yet many management teams do precisely that every single day.
The managers and leaders of high-performance organizations have a tight, defined, well-oiled and interlocking set of job descriptions that are alive, organic, dynamic tools – they’re a seriously effective part of who they are, what they do, and how they make decisions.
Mediocre organizations by contrast, have flabby, tired, mangy, out-of-date, unclear and ambiguous documents that pass for job descriptions loitering in some long-ago abandoned filing cabinet deep in the bowels of HR. And so they’re always bumping into each other, duplicating what each other does, confusing everyone around them and regularly dropping the ball.
You don’t want to be like that of course, so here’s a quick and effective way to immediately start sharpening your job description into a powerful competitive advantage:
1. Find a piece of paper with two sides.
2. On top of one side, write at the top “Things That Only I Can Do”. We’ll call this ‘Side A’.
3. On top of the other side, write at the top “Things That Other People Could Do”.
4. For a week, every time you start a work-related task, write that task down on the appropriate side of the piece of paper.
5. Redefine your job description around everything on ‘Side A’.
6. Repeat the process each week for about three months, or until you feel you’ve completed a full management cycle.