Key role variables and their development value

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Every job, role has a purpose (somehow this doesn’t get emphasized in the actual day-to-day lived reality of a role). This purpose is the value associated with the results the role has to achieve. The results in turn are achieved by how well  the actions the role is expected  to execute are executed and how well these actions are executed calls for a minimum level of knowledge and skills. I explored this a lot more in previous posts – understanding why and also building capability for sustainable performance.


All the above are defined by the role level which indicates the span of impact of decisions, actions of the role and the nature of situations encountered by the role. The job family captures the type of activities expected of the role and the organization business function structure indicates the primary professional  domain where those activities need to be performed.

All of these are operating within a specific organization within a specific industry.

The job is really the purpose, results, actions and capabilities. The grade level, job family and structure are really just organizing principles used to group and manage jobs. Everyone doing a job makes sense of their job using the purpose, results, actions and capability lens as experienced in the role. Everyone has a way in which they have defined these and thus the meaning they have attributed to their job. This meaning is determined more heavily by how they view the job purpose more than the results or activities that make up the role.  In contrast, the grade level, job family and structure do not exist without the job and are only relevant to the extent they provide value in helping organizations understand the relationship of the activities and results produced by all the people working with them and how the purpose of the work each person does, which is delivered through the results they achieve, helps deliver the overall results and purpose of the organization.

If nothing changes in the job, after a while, the pattern of situations become rather predictable and someone in the role becomes unconsciously competent which can make  recognizing change, seeing the need for change and adapting to change difficult. Given most people have to stay in the same job for a length of time, developing a form of reflexive competency (see fifth stage of competency ladder discussion here) becomes more desirable but that’s for a different post.


When someone experiences role change in any way, from as basic as change in performance expectations to completely leaving a role in one organization and / industry to a different role in another organization / industry, several things can change and the level of these changes determine the extent to which new capabilities need to be developed, what new knowledge and skills need to be acquired.


Each dimension of change indicated in the highlighted portion of image above holds significant development requirements and opportunities. Multiple ones therefore become all that more complex.

To give some examples, an individual contributor

  1. …moving to individual contributor at a higher grade in same team is 1 dimension
  2. …but moving to an individual contributor at a higher level in the same team doing something different is 2 dimensions
  3. …moving to a manager within the same team is at least 3 dimensions.
  4. …moving to a manager in a different team is at least a 4 dimensions…

…and so on.

The main question is – what is changing?

Most times as individuals, we experience these changes without framing them this way or even consciously framing them at all! As a result, we might not pay attention to whether we are approaching the change in productive ways to ensure success. Knowing there’s a change is step one, knowing what’s changed or changing increases our ability to choose the best way to respond to sustain success.  Knowing where to go and how to equip oneself to adapt to the change then becomes key.

What we need to avoid is situations where we (units and relevant decision makers in the organization) think we have made a change but the individual is not aware of or does not experience any real change because the lived reality of their daily experiences in the role haven’t actually changed. This I notice is normally the issue – we change the purple boxes without changing the blue boxes. Promotion with no change in purpose, results or activities. What is written on paper and captured in the process indicates some changes to the purple but the individual, manager and colleagues do not enact any actual changes in the blue boxes.

It is important to note that this disconnect can happen with changes in any of the purple boxes because those boxes are abstract concepts that are supposed to get their meaning from the blue concrete ones – i.e. they are categorizations based on patterns in the blue boxes. Because the blue boxes are more concrete, they have a direct relationship with the lived reality. When these blue boxes change, the lived reality of the role also changes or when an individual experiences changes in the lived reality of the role, it can always be attributed to a change in one or more of the blue boxes.

So for individuals we need to realize that our experience of a role is based on what we understand, believe and have accepted consciously or otherwise about the blue boxes – purpose, results and activities.

As an organisation we need to first remember not to assume that the changes in the purple boxes automatically translate to changes in the blue boxes… this alignment of blue and purple boxes needs to be constantly monitored, adjusted and managed in response to strategy and changes in the world, industry and organisation including changes to managers who play a key role in the lived reality of the people in the jobs and roles they manage.

Secondly we need to ensure when we define the purple boxes we do so by being as clear as possible what the corresponding concrete realities of the blue boxes really are because those those form the basis of our definition or should.

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