Job Descriptions & Accountability

I know that from time to time, I tend to go wandering off to my “Business School 101” soapbox and rant about things, and guess what? This is one of those times.

While there is a time in startups that requires people to wear a number of hats, as an organization grows it’s important to have job descriptions not because “delegation is what people in power do” but because there’s a number of really good reasons to create divisions of labor.

  1. Because different people have different skill sets. Ideally a job position matches their strongest and most developed skill sets with an appropriate job function.
  2. Because an accurate job description allows you to locate and find the best candidate for a given function.
  3. Because a job description gives both the employer and the employee a common starting point for measuring how well that person is doing in that position.

Now, those are good reasons, but the really critical reason, I believe, is;

  1. When everyone is responsible for everything, no one is responsible for anything.

    The business critical path of communication – the answer to “who do I talk to in order to get ‘x’ done?” is non-existent without knowing who is accountable for what.

    In the circumstance where there are multiple people responsible for the same part of a project depending upon either the importance of the project or the inability of one person to keep up with it, or the bosses perception of how crucial something is – without a single, clear tone of leadership and delegation, business hobbles along like a kid with a club foot.

    Let me say it again, because it’s important.

    When everyone is responsible for everything, no one is responsible for anything.

Without leadership that has the ability to qualitatively assess what kinds of skill sets and talents will help the business run better, your business will always be struggling, your employees going home frustrated, and your competitors clapping with glee while they kick your butt because you’re spending more time interviewing job candidates and hiring people who have no clue what they’re actually supposed to be doing.

Good job descriptions create clear lines of communication & accountability. Dismiss them at your own risk.