Transformation Solutions Blog

Role Clarity is the #1 Practice of Agile Organizations

March 21st, 2016

Agility is the ability of an organization to renew itself, adapt, change quickly and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment.  Agility requires the ability to move fast – speed, nimbleness, responsiveness.  But agility also requires stability – a platform of things that won’t change.

Research conducted by MIT suggests that agile firms grow revenue 37% faster and generate 30% higher profits than non-agile companies.

Recent research from McKinsey identified Role Clarity as the most important practice of an agile organization.


So how do you ensure role clarity?  The first step is to make sure the job descriptions you have in place actually describe what you want the employee to do.

If you look at any of the major job boards, or most company web sites you will find plenty of good examples of bad job descriptions.  Traditional job descriptions describe the minimum qualifications required for the position such as the minimum duties, tasks and responsibilities. Add to that the minimum education required, minimal years of experience, and minimal skills, plus the endless list of behavioral traits: team player, a good communicator, self-motivated and big thinker. Most job descriptions describe the least qualified person, not the real job. This often leads to hiring the least qualified. The harsh reality is, when you define a job in mediocre terms, odds are you will attract and hire mediocre candidates.

And once hired, these exhaustive lists of tasks don’t really help employees make decisions or give them a clue regarding their performance.  To ensure role clarity, write results-focused job descriptions.

A results-focused job description, or performance profile is far superior to a traditional job description, since it defines the desired results, the key processes needed to achieve these results, and an understanding of the environment in which they take place.  By defining key results for all positions, and identifying the key actions that drive them, you are clearly connecting specific actions with specific outcomes. People become focused on what they are supposed to accomplish rather than simply engaging in unfocused motion.

To become more agile, it’s important to define the job, not the person.  It’s better to understand the expected outcomes of a job, rather than the inputs.  This is the fundamental difference between a RFJD and traditional job descriptions.  If the candidate can achieve the results, they obviously have enough experience and skills.

A sample results-focused job descriptions can be found here: