How Do You Document Roles and Responsibilities?

How can you best document roles and responsibilities in such a way that provides value to those involved? To start, we need to understand what value can be provided by creating such a document. Then, we can make a decision on the best way to represent it. Whether we are are dealing with an established business unit within a large firm, or we’re discussing a project team in a growing company. There’s good reason to provide clarity in documentation to all parties involved in the business processes. 

Why do it?

For ongoing operations: When a new hire enters the company or an existing employee transfers to a new position, how do they know what the position entails?

    • Value: ensure work is executed consistently across people performing the same role

For new developments: When a project team is formed, how does each member know where they fit in at?

    • Value: plan is laid out ahead of time to assess workloads and avoid conflicts during project execution

It’s important to keep in mind that roles and responsibilities are just one aspect of an overall business process model. Documenting them should be done in a way that can be easily linked into other forms of documentation.

Methods

The involvement level, or responsibility, that an individual role has on a given activity can be described in many different ways. Wikipedia has a nice article breaking down numerous alternatives. For the following examples, let’s use RASI (responsible, approving, supporting, informed).

      • Responsible (R): Who is ultimately responsible for the completion of the activity? If deliverables are late or not completed, who is getting a phone call?
      • Approving (A): Does someone need to approve of the work completed in the activity in order for the outputs to be used in subsequent activities?
      • Supporting (S): Who can help out? Possibly a subject matter expert, or additional labor?
      • Informed (I): Who needs to know that the activity has been completed?

Let’s take a look at two different methods, or formats of documenting roles and responsibilities. The first is a Responsibility Matrix (the variation RACI Chart is often used in project management), and the second is a Role Responsible Sheet. Both examples will cover the operational process of a hypothetical pizza company.

Roles and Responsibilities Documentation Example 1: Responsibility Matrix

A responsibility matrix is a great resource for showing how roles and activities are related. Roles are listed across the horizontal axis at the top of the table and activities are listed down the vertical axis in the first column on the left. The intersection points between the activities and roles represents the involvement level of the role in the activity, denoted by the designated letter. If an intersection cell is blank, the role has no involvement in the activity.

In the following example, we can interpret from the row labeled “Make Pizza”, that the administrator and manager provide support (S) for this activity, while the Chef is responsible (R), and the delivery driver is informed (I).
PizzaResponsibilityMatrix

Pros:

  • Quickly tell by role what involvement is needed for each activity
  • Provides a process(es) at a glace view

Cons:

  • No clear way to show activity dependencies
  • Limited information for specific roles involved in process

Roles and Responsibilities Documentation Example 2: Role Responsible Sheet

In this example, a role responsible sheet is shown for the “administrator” role. This is the same role that is represented in the first column of the responsibility matrix in the first example. Everything in this form is specific to the role that it’s filled out for, so additional fields could be added beyond relationships to activities. To show some of the flexibility, we’ve added an “Objects Produced” and a “Training Required” field, specific to the role.

Role Responsibility Sheet

Pros:

  • Tailored view for an individual person
  • Can include additional information for roles that isn’t available in other documentation sources

Cons:

  • Difficult to integrate with other documents for a “bigger picture” perspective

Summary

It’s important to have some form of documentation for roles and their respective responsibilities. This will help to ensure, among other benefits, that consistent work is being done between multiple people performing the same role, workloads are being assessed more accurately, and employee conflicts are being avoided. Roles can be and are expressed in many forms of process documentation. However, tools such as responsibility matrices and role responsible sheets scale well relative to graphical, process-flow, styled charts.

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