VSHNeer Roles

Why Roles at VSHN

At VSHN, our focus has primarily been on team concepts rather than on the expectations and performance of individual VSHNeers. Although we have invested significantly in clarifying responsibilities, setting goals, and conducting reviews for teams, we have done relatively little at the individual level. Historically, most VSHNeers did not have defined or regularly reviewed jobs or roles. Expectations were primarily derived implicitly from team responsibilities.

Today, many VSHNeers fulfill tasks across teams or even independently of them, and we have groups that are more a collection of individuals with various responsibilities but no common purpose. These groups often face issues with unclear and unmet responsibilities and expectations. Additionally, we are planning to introduce a salary system based on the roles of the VSHNeers. Furthermore, we recognize that many VSHNeers find it challenging to receive genuine appreciation and constructive criticism regarding their performance and areas for improvement.

We want every VSHNeer to be clear about their responsibilities and what is expected of them, and to be able to receive positive and constructive feedback for their efforts. Therefore, it is necessary to clarify the main roles for each VSHNeer.

What is a Role?

A role is a way for an organization (or team, or your co-workers) to "delegate" responsibilities (taking care of something, recurring tasks, or a specific area of work and decision-making) to someone. There might be official delegation (top-down) or you might just take responsibility for what is needed and get reviewed by your peers (those who work with you or depend on what you do), more bottom-up.

  • People can take on one or more roles.

  • Instead of formally setting up a new team, it’s sometimes simpler to just share one role between several people, meaning that they share the responsibilities defined in the role.

  • Role keepers are selected, which can also mean that you self-define your role and there is consent from your peers.

  • Peers support one another to develop in the roles they keep.

Conceptually, a role is a Domain that is assigned to an individual (the Role Keeper).


Difference to Team

  • People trying to achieve the same thing are a circle—whether defined explicitly or not.

  • When multiple people have the same role, they share the workload and responsibility as agreed upon (usually through coordination meetings or similar), thus forming a defined circle.

  • A team is also a circle, but it’s a heavier construct, involving all the Fundamental Responsibilities of Semi-Autonomous Teams at VSHN, within which there are distinct roles.

  • Within a team, there might be people with the same role, so the structure described above might repeat.

  • A team has one common purpose and shared responsibilities; different people contributing to different responsibilities usually do not constitute a team.

  • Team-independent roles, on the other hand, are more lightweight.

Benefits of having defined Roles

As someone else
  • You can see who is responsible for what and what you can expect them to do or deliver.

  • You know whom to approach and provide feedback, should you not get what you expect.

  • You know whom to thank when things are working fine.

As the role keeper
  • You know what others (the team, the organization, your peers) expect from you.

  • You can self-assess quite easily if you fulfill the defined responsibilities or not.

  • If defined, you can easily recognize who depends on what you do and produce, and on whom you are dependent.

  • If you’re at (mental) capacity, you can officially say no to things that are not within your responsibilities. Likewise, you can more safely help and care about things outside your role if you have the capacity, knowing that you can focus again later.

As the organization
  • It allows us to see if responsibilities for all core functions of the business and the organization are clear and to spot areas where things get lost or are unclear.

Balance Main Role vs Additional Roles

Time is limited; we all have to make the most of our time. Usually, no one has time for additional tasks and responsibilities; you have to actively make time for them.

Taking on additional roles must always be done in accordance with your main role and other additional roles. That means you can’t just take on additional roles and neglect the work for your other roles. Overall, the Main Role always comes first—that’s what we all were hired for.

On the other hand, taking on additional roles and actually investing time can be crucial to VSHN’s success. For this, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • You should know your stakeholders and check: Do they get from you what they need and expect? If not, why is that? This might show ways to improve in the role or is a sign that you can’t deliver because of capacity/focus issues.

  • Do intentional peer-reviews—ask your stakeholders and people in the same role.

  • Do coordination meetings with people in the same role to spread the load, figure out who has which capacity, who can do what so it’s not all on you.

There are roles that need more time during bigger projects, organizational changes, and similar undertakings. This makes time planning with your other roles even more important.