critical-roleTrust us, it’s more exciting than it sounds!

Critical Role Analysis is a tool to find out what the most important roles in a business are, so businesses can plan for people leaving.

When it comes to succession planning and the development of top talent, we need to know which roles are so important to success, that they are essentially business risks that need to be managed.  What if the person in our most critical role went off sick tomorrow for six months?

Traditionally all development has pointed to the top – we prepare top talent to become the future CEO, but as organisations flatten out and specialist roles are given as much emphasis as managers, we need to flex that approach.  Arguably, an organisation can survive without a CEO, but can it survive without the people who uphold its technical infrastructure, customer services and other critical operations?  Who buys the biscuits?

Knowing what these roles are, means you can effectively succession plan for them and develop your talent or high-flyers to move into those roles when required.  This is classic risk management – by planning for a critical role, you will save your business time and money, by avoiding the need for reactively hiring an expensive, inexperienced new starter.

Totem Lollipops

One simple way to do this is using a critical role grid (draw yourself and X and Y axis and you’re all done…) and then plot the greatest risks based on two measures:

Impact – on the success of the business – essentially, the value of a role’s contribution

Expertise – level of specialist skill or experience required to do the job well, which affects recruitment

Where it gets a little more complicated is in establishing the context and criteria for each role.  The CEO of a large multinational is arguably far easier to replace than a Founder.  Steve Jobs for example, has left a legacy that will stretch far beyond a generations worth of Apple executives.

On the flip side, the caretaker with 50 years of experience and possible the lowest salary in the building – is quite often the key to a business successfully operating on a day to day basis.  That context needs to be built into your assessment criteria.

Strategy Alignment

In many ways Critical Role Analysis is a business planning process, and the companies that have the most success are those that hand responsibility for the analysis to line managers and senior management teams.

It’s these management teams that are responsible for strategy execution and are subsequently best placed to view each role in the context of the wider business ambitions.  We would really encourage anyone who is critically evaluating roles within their business to seek buy in and engagement from those effected by the role they’re assessing.

We often see the needs of the business as an ambition some point off in the distance, or from today’s ‘need it now’ context.  There is a grey area in between called the unexpected.

Starting the analysis conversation early will certainly prepare you for the future, but it may also prepare you for what tomorrow unexpectedly brings.

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