Role definitions in the company

Organisations are structured to work together efficiently and effectively. The structure of an organisation is derived from the company's mission or strategy and divides the entire company into divisions, departments and teams. Each part of the organisation is given specific responsibilities, authorities and tasks. In all organisational units, the tasks of managers and employees are specified in job descriptions. Job descriptions are detailed and specific. They list the specific tasks, requirements and skills needed for a particular job. Among other things, job descriptions are highly relevant in the context of recruitment in order to select the right candidate. Job descriptions thus form an integral part of the organisational structure.

In practice, however, we often experience that the job description is not sufficient to provide sufficient orientation for the process organisation. One of the main reasons is that in the cooperation between departments and people, the focus is on interaction and interplay and not on the details of the individual positions.

Furthermore, the same person can have different responsibilities and competencies in a described position. For example, a manager can be an employee, colleague, supervisor, project manager or stakeholder, depending on the situation. The person therefore has different roles in the process organisation, the breadth of which is not all comprehensively covered in a job description. Therefore, a broader description of self-image, responsibility and authority is needed, the so-called role description. It covers the general functions and main contributions of a position. Roles can be more flexible than job descriptions and adapt to the needs of the organisation.

As already indicated, roles usually emerge when procedures and processes are worked out. A good example is the introduction of project work. Here, roles emerge as part of the project organisation, e.g. project manager, project team members, steering committee members, etc.. These come into the existing organisation through the introduction of project work and are taken over by people who can hold a wide variety of positions. Roles therefore represent a secondary responsibility in addition to the job.

In any case, role descriptions map responsibility and competence. These categories are also the standard elements of a role description, to which we at CO Improve always like to add KPIs against which the role is measured and a fourth dimension, self-image.


Accountability refers to the duty or commitment to undertake and successfully complete a particular task or group of tasks. Accountability is the sense of obligation to be responsible for the results or progress of specific tasks or activities. It is about ensuring that assigned tasks are done properly.


In a role description, competence usually has two manifestations. One is the practical and personal resources that enable a person to carry out their responsibilities effectively. They can be technical, social or cognitive in nature. The other dimension is the empowerment of the person in an organisation, e.g. decision-making or directive competence. Both dimensions should be described to create a holistic picture.


For every responsibility it makes sense to make it measurable. In this case, selected key performance indicators (KPI) are standard. For example, a project manager is measured by the achievement of QKT. Most role holders would not discuss this further at first. However, if one names KPIs such as degree of fulfilment of the specification, achievement of manufacturing cost targets, adherence to project cost targets, adherence to milestone dates, etc., the discussion gains momentum: "But I can't influence that at all, if I am supposed to be responsible for that, then I want more far-reaching competences ..." The discussion of the KPIs often makes the responsibility more tangible and helps to sharpen it.


The reason for this fourth dimension is that for all the breadth achieved in the description of responsibility, competence and KPI, it is not possible to cover every detail. The self-image is supposed to provide security if the detail is not described. A classic formulation for a project manager is, for example, "I have the holistic responsibility for quality, costs and time". This makes it clear that, in case of doubt, I am responsible as the project manager and that I will take this responsibility until I have addressed it to others involved in the project. The self-image thus significantly increases the flexibility and adaptability of the role.

An example illustrates the connection between task and responsibility: In a project team, someone could be responsible for the technical concept. This person must ensure that the technical concept is coherent and meets the requirements. In English, a distinction is often made here between accountability and responsibility. A more abstract description of responsibility has the advantage of not having to think ahead and list all tasks in detail. In the event of a conflict, this also avoids a role holder claiming that this or that task would not have been on the list.

Your benefit

  • Roles are the essential element to describe the process organisation
  • Complex cooperation between areas and persons, the interaction and interplay become manageable through roles
  • Individual job holders can have different roles in processes or projects
  • Responsibility, competence and measurable criteria are the core of every role description
  • Self-conception of the role provides orientation and security even in complex situations