Richer Roles by Laurence Wood

New Roles or new responsibilities

Whether your business has grown rapidly or pivoted in a new direction, chances are good that your teams are being reformed. Either you are growing and splitting teams, spinning up new teams for new projects, or simply adding new faces to old teams. Since these teams have moved out of the office to work remotely, and are now perhaps moving back again, it is a good time to take stock and make sure you have firmly established new ways of working.

A great place to start is to make sure there is clarity and openness about who does what in the team. Are there team members with overlapping experiences that are in conflict? Are there people that are wearing two hats? Is there a person missing or a responsibility that is falling between the cracks?

Richer Roles by Laurence Wood

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Richer Roles is a simple flexible outcome-oriented game designed to enable and encourage healthy and productive discussion of these issues. The cards contain 50 statements describing common responsibilities that are required in many software delivery departments and multiple agile frameworks. Teams are invited to gather and select one of 13 role names that they think suit them, then share out the responsibilities they are committed to.

Since the cards are all unique, any uncertainty around who does what in the team will need to be resolved. If cards remain on the table, then something might need to be done. The cards will never reflect any specific job description, or "correct" distribution for your team. This provides a sense of psychological safety, since it is "just a set of game cards". The true value is in the interesting conversations necessary to successfully complete the game.

Discrete markings on the card reveal Laurence's mapping between role and responsibility enabling facilitators to spot when one person has committed to responsibilities that bridge two traditional roles. Facilitators have the option to point out the presence of role bridging team members to provoke conversations they feel will be helpful. Is that person overloaded? Do they need training, support or extra patience? Richer Roles is an invaluable resource in when teams need to form or reform in times of change and uncertainty. If your staff turnover is high, you are growing, or reacting to a changing market then use this game to help teams reflect and adapt.

How to use the Richer Roles cards?

Sit in a circle (allow 1 hour). Developers should sit together and so on. Hand out the Role titles, adding real names using sticky notes.

Shuffle the Responsibilities cards & take turns to read one out. Agree who will take that card showing they commit to doing this! Set aside difficult items or those of absentees for later. Apply sticky notes to amend or add details & explanations.

Rich discussion is the key - there are no wrong answers! Review the final outcome together. Group each role's cards and take photos for your team wall - include real names. Revisit together at your next team change or sooner.