How to Get the Right People in the Right Seats

People & Culture
Vision & Strategy

Stardate 41153.7. We’re on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

The bridge crew efficiently works away at their functions. When a crisis emerges, they’re seamless at solving the problem.

If we’re talking the original Star Trek, let’s admit it, “solving” the problem usually means setting phasers to kill, but I digress.

The important thing is this: The team is highly effective. Everyone is an A-Player and knows exactly what they’re accountable for. This doesn’t happen by accident.

In so many businesses, that clarity doesn’t exist.

People are responsible for too many things and become bottlenecks.

Multiple people “share responsibility” creating a decision-making nightmare.

Team members aren’t clear about what they’re accountable for or who to go to for things.

If you want to create a galaxy-class team centered around crisp accountability and attention to results, you need to step back and design the organization you’re looking for.

Here’s how.

Getting the right people in the right seats

In Good to Great, Jim Collins gives the metaphor of your business being like a bus. First, you need to get the right people in the bus. After that, it’s vital to get those right people in the right seats.

In our last article, we talked about how to get the right people in the organization. How to Hire the Right People.

Strategic planning frameworks like EOS, Scaling Up and the 7 Attributes of Agile Growth include very powerful tools for designing the right seats.

The process usually looks like:

  1. Identify the key functions
  2. Determine what outcomes each function is accountable for
  3. Create leading and lagging metrics for each function
  4. Show it visually using a Functional Organization Chart
  5. Assign people into the functions
  6. Review regularly and troubleshoot any issues

Creating this clarity is vital when scaling a business. It’s the first step to creating a true team of A-players.

Accountability vs Responsibility

There’s a big difference between being accountable for something and responsible for it.

Accountability is about owning the outcome.

Responsibility is about doing the work.

It’s important to understand this, especially as your company grows: Often you’ll have leaders accountable for a result, but not responsible for doing the work.

This is good. They should delegate responsibility, but can never delegate accountability.

Identify key functions

There’s a number of key functions in every business. There’s a leader, finance, HR, IT, customer service, operations, product and others.

It doesn’t matter what size your business is – a solopreneur has the same functions as a mid-sized business. The difference is how many hats each person is wearing. That solopreneur is wearing 27 hats, while in the bigger company each leader may only be wearing one or two.

When determining functions, avoid:

  • Focusing on the people currently doing the work
  • Focusing on titles. Use generic functions instead

If you do either, you trap yourself into your current state. Clear the field and think about what you need to achieve your vision. Then see how people and titles fit into the new layout.

Every function needs a mission

There’s nothing quite like having a mission. Something that’s clearly driving you forward. Some outcome that you own.

That sense of ownership is vital for A-players. They want clarity around how they can be extremely successful in their roles.

Traditionally when we create job descriptions, we focus on duties. That’s the HOW of a job. It doesn’t really give you a mission or a sense of ownership. It’s a task list.

What can that mission look like?

  • Sales is accountable for creating revenue and repeat customers
  • Customer service is accountable to creating raving fans and customer retention
  • HR is accountable for creating happy employees

Usually, we will see 1-3 outcomes that a role is accountable for.

Measure Success

Every function should have clear measures of success. Ideally, you’ll have a leading metric (the one you can use to guide the result) and a lagging metric (the result):

Sales’ metrics are sales activities (leading) and revenue (lagging)

Customer service’s metrics are mean time to close a request (leading) and customer NPS

HR’s metrics are eNPS (leading) and employee turnover rate (lagging)

The Functional Organization Chart

Turning a simple table into an organizational chart with clear reporting relationships and accountabilities right on the chart creates amazing clarity for the team.

Bonus points: In your regular review process, color code the functions green/yellow/red based on how well their achieving their outcomes!

Back on the bridge of the Enterprise

When the Klingons decloak in front of the Enterprise, there’s no concern about who is going to operate the weapons and raise shields. Everyone knows Sulu will set the evasion pattern and Scotty will complain about Kirk’s damage control demands.

Your Functional Accountability Chart gives you the same clarity in your business. There’s no question who is accountable for a decision or result. Your team has can focus on their areas of genius.

With regular review, you can tune the organization to perform smoothly. You can easily find bottlenecks in the functions and make appropriate hiring decisions and solve other issues.

And hopefully you won’t have to deal with Klingons or Romulans in your business!

Mike Knapp


Mike has been helping businesses achieve their goals for more than 20 years. He believes there is a better way for business owners and leaders to build their businesses and achieve their big goals. As a Gravitas Impact Premium coach, he leverages the 7 Attributes of Agile Growth™ to simplify the art of strategy and discipline of execution.

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