Role Descriptions as Strategic Documents

Role Descriptions As Strategic Documents?

Role descriptions are rarely considered “strategic” documents, but they should be. 

Because they:

  • Identify tasks and responsibilities that are aligned with organizational goals and vision
  • Are used to generate interview questions when selecting new employees (right people, right seats)
  • Help managers set performance expectations and coach for success
  • Form the basis of performance reviews

Role descriptions are NOT strategic when they:

  • Are just a hodge-podge of unrelated tasks, and sometimes are based around a person (non-specific)
  • Are not reviewed and updated regularly (dynamic vs static)
  • Include How tasks/responsibilities are to be performed (comments belong in SOPs)
  • Are not used to interview new employees (wrong people, wrong seats)
  • List tasks/responsibilities that are NOT aligned with company goals and vision (why are we doing them?)
  • Are not used as part of performance reviews (what are you reviewing?)

At MMBBL, we believe that role descriptions are some of the most important strategic documents a company has and uses. The two most often asked questions by team members are:

  1. What do you need me to do?
  2. How am I doing?

This post will review how role descriptions should be created; we will get to the other items in subsequent posts. 

Accountable managers and their own manager create role descriptions. How? 


Let’s say that a senior manager is effectively functioning at Level 3, which means they are performing work 1-2 years into the future, and they have new work that needs to be done at Level 1, which is 1 day – 3 months into the future. The Level 3 manager will work with the Level 2 first line manager, who is working 3-12 months into the future, to identify the tasks required in the new role. They will “build” the new role description by identifying new, value-adding tasks that are different from other Level 1 roles. Some tasks may be able to be completed in one week, others perhaps one month, with the longest task requiring 2 months to complete. These “what-by-when” tasks identify the longest task completion in this example at 2 months, which falls into the category of Level 1 work. This process of role creation is very objective in that the tasks and timelines are specifically derived and for which both managers will be held accountable. Clearly stating what-by-when tasks, and then identifying the longest time completion task, is how you measure the level of work of a role. 

In the next post, we’ll review how to use role descriptions during interviews.