“Who is responsible for this?” ”Shouldn’t your department do that?“ You are probably familiar with situations in which roles and tasks are no longer clear. But a clear explanation of roles is essential, be it at the beginning of a project or at the distribution of the tasks amongst the team, because this ensures that participants are clear on their tasks and avoids potential conflicts.
RACI & Co.
Of course, this is not a new topic, and there are already tools like dedicated position descriptions or the RACI matrix. The matrix is good for gaining an overview, but it also has its weakness. There is, first off, a problem with clarity. Imagine you have more than 200 tasks to describe within ten roles. Can you apply this hustle to R, A, C and I? It quickly becomes tedious and loses its usefulness.
The second problem is in the selection of media. Classically, RACI matrixes are made with spreadsheet programs like Excel. The spreadsheet is initially filled out by the project manager, who then makes their variants of roles available. And this is where the problem starts: normally, role descriptions do not fit together perfectly. The person with the role then sends their improved description back. As you could imagine, the explanation of roles then drags on and becoming a difficult test for participants.
As the last point, I would like to add to the theme of granularity. Often, four letters are not expressive enough to define a role properly. Other businesses have also noticed this in their projects but come to the wrong conclusions. They made things worse trying to improve it by adding an S for support, for example. This results in role clarification being more difficult and time-consuming.
I developed the role model canvas to address this dilemma. Thanks to the business model canvas by Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, the canvas model has become quite popular, so here I would like to briefly introduce the essential advantages of this method.
Canvas models are visual schemes that are implemented to develop and edit content together in a group. Here, it is important that the canvas is not understood only as a form. It’s more like a projection that invites participants to develop solution approaches in a group dynamic. It enables and promotes communication between the participants and allows more ideas and views to be anchored in the participants’ heads. Thanks to the basic structure, this tool from the graphic facilitation area guarantees a complete overview and to sets a focus for the participants.
Role Model Canvas
The Role Model Canvas is a template which defines a role over eight fields.
In the header of the canvas, define the project and the names of the roles.
The field Goals and Missions is in the middle of the canvas. Note the purpose of the role here. If you can’t think of any, maybe you should reflect on the necessity of this role.
With regards to the notes: I recommend writing on post its and to stick them to the canvas, not writing directly onto it. The advantage is that you can move the contents around or remove them. Don’t write a whole novel on the small notes. The rule of thumb is that there should be no more than five words on each note. You can also record your notes visually. The advantage is that communicate complicated contents which then stick in the heads of the others.
But back to the other seven blocks.
On the right, the primary tasks. Note the role’s primary tasks here. Make sure that they are not too detailed because, as the name of the field says, it is only the main tasks.
In the Responsible and Decides… you can take a note of what the role is responsible for and what decisions have to be made.
Right next to it is the No field. As you may have assumed, here you note what these people don’t do. It helps to clearly delimit what the role entails.
Between the fields mission and primary tasks, there is a tools field. Describe the role-specific communication paths and tools.
In the field Support, note what support the role needs, for example who actively supports the role.
The Information Transfer field is for something similar: describe who should have
Im Feld Informationstransfer gehen Sie ähnlich vor: Beschreiben Sie, wen die Rolle wann an ihrem Wissen (zwingend) teilhaben lassen sollte und wie der Informationsaustausch geregelt wird. Notieren Sie aber auch, von wem die Rolle wann Informationen erhält bzw. erhalten sollte.
There’s only one field left: Notes. This is a joker field for anything that doesn’t fit into another category.
Plan a workshop and hang one canvas per role in the room – ideally A0 size. Form small groups and fill out the role descriptions in teams.
Fill them out whilst standing and make it clear that everyone has to write and everyone stick something on there. Another small tip: because there are alphas in every group who take over communication, stick to verbal communication for the first five to ten minutes. It’s about bringing as many aspects as possible onto the poster. After silent note taking, groups can communicate openly and fill up the canvas.
Important: There’s no order for filling things out. Wherever aspects are found, they should be noted immediately.
After the group work is over, ask the teams to present their results. This way, it becomes clear immediately if there are any overlaps or anything unclear in any of the roles.
I also recommend hanging the canvas models up in your office, for example, after the workshop. This helps new team members or stakeholders get a quick overview.
Tell me more!
If you’re interested and would like to learn more about the canvas model and graphic facilitation tools, then you might be interested in our new book „Business Visualisierung“. Or take a look at our website: http://www.visual-braindump.de. You can also download the role model canvas for free there.