Do you have a clear view on what your role and your responsibilities are in your team, or in your alliance? Does your counterpart, your colleague, or your manager, have the same understanding of your roles and responsibilities?

It seems so easy, yet when talking about roles and responsibilities we often enter the world of assumptions. We think we know what we do and we think we know what our colleague should do. However, we don’t verify those thoughts and we don’t really communicate about those roles and responsibilities. Thus we assume.

When roles and responsibilities are not clear in a collaboration, any type of collaboration, it can be like giving gas while keeping one foot on the breaks. It slows down the joint effort tremendously.

So, time to make very clear who is doing what, and who is responsible for what, in your collaboration.

In an alliance or a partnership with another company, it can be helpful to map the functional relationships using the functional mapping tool.

This tool will help you to clarify the day to day interactions between you and your partner, and it will also help you to map escalation paths. The model used can be quite simple, using two or three columns, where you map your people to your partner’s people: describing functional role, names, titles and responsibilities in the relationship. The optional third column can be a status column that provides an actual overview of the status of the relationship. You can download a template of the functional peer mapping tool here.

Within a team, clarifying roles and responsibilities can be done through a group conversation or a team exercise. In a recent team development workshop with a client, I asked each team member to write down his roles and responsibilities on a post-it note. We then had them read out this post-it note one by one to the group, allowing the group to respond and ask questions. The post-it notes were attached to a large whiteboard where we mapped the internal team connections out in a visible way.

This exercise with the team led to some good discussions and removed some confusion within the team. A good conversation about roles and responsibilities can work quite clarifying and can create bonding at the same time.

How about your collaboration, does every member involved have the same understanding of the roles and responsibilities?