Seven reasons organizations start working with Roles

Seven reasons organizations start working with Roles

A growing number of organizations have switched to some form of self-management. This can be Holacracy, sociocracy, or other practices. What makes these companies transition to working with Roles? What frustrations and annoyances motivate this change?

1  Faster decision-making

In traditional organizations, decision-making can slow teams down. Making a decision involves colleagues on several hierarchical levels. Information needs to travel to the decision-maker and then back to the team. This sequence of meetings and emails costs precious time.
When you work with Roles, decision-making can be much quicker. Persons filling a Role can decide autonomously on things within their responsibilities. This means fewer meetings and fewer emails. In addition, the team in need of a decision no longer has to wait for other people to make the decision. With Roles, teams can make the right decisions faster and more efficiently.

2  Become more agile

Nowadays, companies feel the need to be agile. They must adapt quickly to changes in their business environment to stay relevant to their customers. Working with Roles is a perfect way to become more agile as an organization. With decision-making distributed to teams, teams can process insights and iterate until they get it right. Distributed decision-making thereby helps companies to become more responsive and more flexible.

3  Transparent responsibilities

Lack of clarity on who does what within and across teams leads to distractions and irritation. Roles address this problem by making responsibilities explicit and transparent. When you work with Roles, everyone can see all responsibilities. This makes it clear what to expect from each Role. As a result, Roles reduce annoyances and misunderstandings within teams and organizations.

4  Avoid corporate symptoms

Usually, scale-ups wish to avoid corporate symptoms like silos, bureaucracy, and complex structures. One founder explained it like this:

As a start-up, we were agile like a speedboat. We could have introduced departments and functions. However, that would have made us unwieldy like a supertanker. Adding no structure at all was not an option. That would have made us look like multiple speedboats sailing in different directions. With Holacracy, we remain agile, and it keeps us all on the same course.

Holacracy is an ‘operating system’ for organizations based on working with Roles. Working with Roles allows you to build and grow a resilient organization. While at the same time avoiding bureaucracy and silos.

5  Keep the entrepreneurial spirit of the start-up alive

Start-ups tend to have highly entrepreneurial corporate cultures. All employees respond quickly to observed changes. They take action when needed. Scale-ups wish to avoid traditional hierarchical structures and keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive. Working with Roles means that every individual can make decisions. People are responsible for getting a part of the work (their Role) done. The Role defines ‘what’ they should do, not ‘how’ they need to do it. This allows individuals to shape their work and operate like entrepreneurs for their slice of the company’s work.

6  Founders wish to pull out of the day-to-day operations

When a start-up grows, the management duties of founders tend to increase. Some founders become so busy with daily operations that little time is left for company strategy. Not all founders are happy with that development. To illustrate, one founder said:

I want to stop having to manage.

And another founder explained:

I had my finger in so many pies. It was frustrating to spend hours on things that were not part of my skill set or that I was not necessarily interested in.

Working with Roles enables employees to take ownership over their slice of work and decision-making. So, distributing decision-making authority to other Roles frees up valuable time for founders to work on, for example, their company’s strategy.

7  Increase employee loyalty

Companies highlight the struggle to attract and keep talent in their organization. Young employees prefer short work engagements, giving them better control over their time and personal growth. As a result, young workers switch jobs often or freelance.
The wish to keep employees longer within the organizations is a driver for working with Roles. For example, one company mentions:

We wanted to enhance the creativity and participation of each of our employees.

Working with Roles boosts employee engagement in a few ways.
First, creating Roles demands defining a team’s mission and a goal for each Role. Having a clear purpose helps employees experience a sense of belonging.
Furthermore, working with Roles better facilitates personal growth within an organization. Unlike traditional functions, switching Roles or taking on several Roles is easy. As a result, you can be the designer of your personal development.
In addition, when you have clear responsibilities and the authority to make decisions related to your Role, you can work relatively autonomously. And having freedom boosts employee engagement.

This article is based on 20+ articles and blog posts of companies that reflect on their transition to working with Roles.

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