Business leaders today must be open to re-imagining the way work is done. This means that new roles and responsibilities must be defined. It also implies that existing jobs may need to be examined, tweaked, or eliminated to fit the emerging business models that are be established every day. However, this may be easier said than done.

Artificial job role boundaries often impede exceptional performance and inhibit people from being able to rethink how to get the job done. It is a form of the age-old "we've always done it this way" philosophy that serves to obstruct many change efforts.

To counteract this very human of behaviors, you must make certain that each person on your team understands the importance of their roles--helping them see just how their tasks fit into the greater whole. Knowing the impact of one's work will serve to lessen any fear of change that they may have and it can help them to become motivated to identify better ways to get things done.

With a greater understanding of importance and fit, you can then work to engage your team in discovering how best to design workflow for optimal performance. Here are three approaches that I've used with recent clients:

  1. Challenge your direct reports to think differently about how they can solve an immediate work challenge. Work with them to discover different ways to get the work done. This insight can then be used to involve them in the redesign of related job roles and responsibilities within their own functional areas.
  2. Periodically gather your team together and task them to brainstorm, with you, about better ways to accomplish the group's core mission. Use the discussion to identify possible scenarios for reconfiguring job roles and responsibilities. Be sure to keep efficiency and overall effectiveness in mind. You want to be sure that there is solid alignment between workflow design and your business model.
  3. Whenever the opportunity arises, push your team members to expand their thinking about the boundaries that artificially separate their job roles and responsibilities. Expanding roles create more opportunities for them to learn and grow, making their work more enriching.

Recently, I have seen this low-key approach to change management work brilliantly. Post-merger, my client was struggling to work as "one." They had been immediately confronted by both internal and external cultural challenges. Intense interest from headquarter representatives from overseas introduced another level of complexity to an already challenging situation. I urged the leadership team to begin to walk around and talk with their people about "how" work was done, and solicit their ideas for doing it better. The approach worked. The focus shifted away from the "differences" that existed (between the once-separate operations) and advanced to how to get the job done with an integrated team. 

To close, once a greater understanding of improved ways to build a better mousetrap is established, leadership can pinpoint and design jobs (and distribute additional responsibilities) that align with the business models being constructed. By doing this, you help your organization establish a broader palette from which to pull breakthrough ideas and enhancements in the future that can lead to unprecedented success.