Organizational charts mean nothing if roles aren’t defined

People & Culture

It’s not uncommon for companies to have organizational charts. But here’s the catch: organizational charts mean nothing if roles aren’t defined.

The illusion of power

Most people ask for an organizational chart so they can see ‘where they sit’—or at least that’s what I hear a lot of the times. It helps them visually understand the power dynamics in the organization. I started to push back and ask, is it about an individual or is it about the perception of  power they have or don’t have?

What it came down to was the idea of where they matter and how. It reinforces what I’ve said for years: show people not just that they matter but why and how. Define their role, what is expected of them and what they are responsible for. That puts into perspective that what they contribute matters in the larger scope of the organization. They play a part on the team and are valued.

Then as a discussion comes up about perception of power it can be brought back in line with responsibility, not perception of power or importance. Everyone matters and everyone is important and how they are important is directly related to the responsibilities they have.

The importance of clearly defining roles

How well do you know what your management team are accountable for?

Management roles are the boots-on-the-ground leaders in the organization and with that comes the weight of daily tasks, weekly and quarterly goals and alignment with annual plans. Managers should primarily manage risk and take less tasks by way of delegating to their department in an efficient manner that drives the department forward to fulfilling their contribution to the annual growth plan.

Having a thorough understanding of management roles allows the manager to further develop leadership skills and the delegation of tasks empowers their team to align and contribute to the departments contribution to the organization as a whole.

Organizational charts waterfall down for a reason—managers are responsible for their role and that of their department and are to delegate tasks to those who report into them. Define management roles as clearly and accurately as possible so the responsibility is clearly understood and therefore, so is the risk of not being able to deliver results through effectively engaging and leading a team.

How to clearly define roles

As a leader, you must know what a manager’s role is, and within that, you must know what the tasks being delegated look like. Without that knowledge accountability wavers.

Start by having the manager bullet point what they believe they do, and what their department does. Then compare against what you currently expect. Keep its simple, keep it to one page. Anything that might require expansion or delegation can then be highlighted and addressed through department specific task lists and SOP’s.

What this does in the organization is create transparency around performance. People are more likely to be engaged with the organization when there is clarity around what is expected of them. With that higher engagement comes higher productivity and equally as important is accountability.

In conclusion, define roles

Its not to say that a company won’t run smoothly without this document, but I will stand on my soapbox one final time and say with the documentation of the role formalized you will successfully remove:

  • People holding information hostage to protect their position
  • Communication break down or ‘misunderstandings’ around expectations
  • Lack of personal accountability

Curious to learn more or want to discuss? Drop me a line.

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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