How to Roll with Role Change

Confused People WEB SMLThe role of CIO (Chief Information Officer) has been around for decades. However, the role often suffers from an identity crisis. At its conception, the role was to serve IT or information systems and data processing. However, changes for this role over the years are dramatic. For example, according to Balance, CIOs must keep up with constantly changing technology, but now skill requirements might include:

  • Strategic planning
  • Software development planning
  • Leadership
  • Project Management
  • Network and relationship building
  • Change management
  • Business and financial acumen (many CIOS obtain an MBA)

Change Happens

The knee jerk reaction might be to brush this off with times change and we must change, or the only constant is change and you need to roll with the change or die. Both ideas have truth in them. However, the impact of role confusion can carry a huge wallop and changing roles or role confusion often creates more, well confusion, than is healthy for your organization.

In a new and growing organization, the issue of role change may be less confusing because everyone must do everything, and that’s a given. However, as a new organization grows, and the hiring of more people takes place, roles can overlap, and conflict can develop as one team member may think a specific role belongs to them and the new employee thinks the role is theirs. Role confusion can occur in mature organizations as well, especially in teams.  

Role Confusion in Teams

Role confusion may not be obvious at first. But suddenly you know something is wrong. Tasks are falling through the cracks, even the most dependable people are missing deadlines, others are dropping the ball, or duplication of effort is occurring. Work duplication often happens when introducing a new team member to the team. Often a manager fails to define the work, does not articulate roles clearly, or may assign roles without depth of knowledge of which team member is performing what task.

As stated earlier, change is constant. Fast-paced environments, the unpredictable market place, and evolving roles can make meeting the demands of change a daunting endeavor. Here are a few ideas.

Rolling with Changing Roles

  • Project Manager

Every project needs to have a good project manager. Part of the project manager’s role is to keep up with everyone else’s. As a project might change or team’s take on new projects, the project manager can easily make adjustments in delegating tasks, allow some people off the current project and assign them to another, bring on new team members with a different set of talents, and clearly communicate the tasks the project requires to each team member.

  • In the Middle of Mess

OK, let’s say you don’t have the luxury of a project manager and you’re already in a pickle over role confusion, conflict, with catastrophe looming.

First, get everyone on the same page, or better yet in the same room – a room with a whiteboard.

Next, have each team member write their tasks on individual sticky notes. These tasks can be for daily work or if a specific project is at a bottle neck. They post them under their name on a white board. You might consider drawing columns to help keep everyone straight. Now it is easy to see duplications or if someone is better at one task than the person performing it, reassigning tasks can help uncork the bottle neck. Using sticky notes makes this task easy as they are easy to move around rather than writing and erasing.

Then have them write their responsibilities on a sticky note and place them on the whiteboard in their columns. Now it is easy to determine accountability or the lack thereof.

Finally, combine tasks and responsibilities for each team member. Reassign as necessary or see who may need help or adding a new team member may be necessary. This should get roles clearer in everyone’s mind and help improve productivity.

Preventing Roles from Rolling

As with everything, prevention is worth pound of cure. Here are some ideas to help keep roles from becoming like the balls on a pool table, rolling around, bumping into one another, clashing around, and falling off the table in some dark hole.

  • Ensure that you have concise job descriptions. Benchmarking can be a tremendous help with this. Speaking of technology… this task too, is now easier to do with technology using assessments.
  • Have a good onboarding process. Right from the first day on the job, be sure that every new hire understands his or her role, the tasks, and processes to be used in achieving these tasks.
  • Communicate clearly. Ask for feedback when assigning roles, tasks, and responsibilities. All team members need to be sure of the role they are filling.
  • If possible, hire good project managers.
  • Have touch base meetings on a regular basis. That way if things do begin falling apart, you can put them back together more quickly.

Role confusion is more prevalent that you might think. Role confusion creeps in before you are aware creating lost time, productivity, and resources. Prevention is key to keep roles in their lane.

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