WEEK 10, 2020
A5 Role Descriptions: Accountability, Responsibility, and Authority
Each week I share three ideas for how to make work better. And this week, those ideas are all about job roles and how to define them.
Why am I writing about this? I’ve been experimenting with different ways to define job roles over the past couple of years. That work culminated in the so-called A5 format — named as such because the entire role description fits on an A5 sheet of paper. It’s still very much a work-in-progress but I’m curious to hear what you, dear reader, make of the approach?
Here’s how it works:
The A5 starts with a list of 3–5 accountabilities that the role should focus on. Being “accountable” literally means having the ability to account for something, which is why each accountability takes the form of an indicator — a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) if you will — that the role should monitor and report on. Importantly, accountabilities are not transferable meaning the role owns the indicator or KPI.
Next, we have the top-5 responsibilities leveraged on the role. “Responsible” means having the ability to respond to something, which is why each responsibility takes the form of a task (or group of tasks) that the role should undertake. These responsibilities should be connected to the above-mentioned accountabilities. But unlike their counterparts, responsibilities can be shared and delegated.
Each responsibility is associated with a level of authority that goes along with the role. There are (at least) four such levels: (1) decide and act, (2) inform and act, (3) consult and act, or, simply (4) act on request (when authority lies with another role). Authority will differ between responsibilities, but we’ll want to skew towards autonomy and empowerment whenever possible. Because that’s how agile organizations are built.
Note the focus on roles rather than positions or titles. A5s are designed on the premise that people fill many roles in their day-to-day and that we’d all benefit from making explicit not only what those roles are but, also, what each specific role actually entails.
Imagine your own situation. If you’re anything like the rest of us, you have one title but many roles (I personally stopped at twelve on my last count). If you had A5s for all those roles, you’d be in a much better position to hand one of them off when push came to shove.
The A5 is very much a work in progress and I’m open to feedback. Can you see value in something like this? What changes would you suggest and why? Feel free to add comments in this Google Doc.
That’s all for this week. Until next time, stay calm.
PS. As with everything else in life, we stand on the shoulders of giants. In this case, I’m heavily inspired by the way roles are defined in Holacracy. I’m also in debt to Tightship and their excellent “Stop confusing: Accountability vs. Responsibility vs. Authority!”