Your team will understand how their work contributes to the team and organisation with:

  • a shared understanding of what goals the team is working to
  • defined roles and responsibilities

Defined roles and responsibilities may also increase productivity, work satisfaction and team cohesion.

As a people manager, they help set team expectations, so everyone can thrive.

After this activity, check any of the outputs don’t conflict with anyone’s position description or performance development plans.

    60 mins
    2 or more
    Workloads and performance

What you’ll need


If you’re together physically, you’ll need:

  • a blank wall or board
  • markers
  • post-it notes
  • sticky dots


If your team is working remotely, you’ll need to set up an online tool.

When you choose a tool, think if anyone in your team has accessibility needs and that they’ll be able to easily use it.

Some free tools you can use are:

But this is just a list of examples. There are a lot of tools.

Scheduling the activity

Set up your meeting at a time where you’ll get the best results.

This means thinking about the diverse needs of each of your team members.

Think of things like:

  • Do some people work better earlier or later in the day?
  • Does anyone have kids or caring responsibilities that mean they need to start late or leave early?
  • Is there a time to avoid due to other work commitments?

How to run the activity

This a rough schedule of how you can run the session.

The key thing is to set a timer for each section of your session and stick to each time.

When people have a limited time to think, they’ll focus on the things that matter to them the most.

Step 1: set up your workspace

Before you start this activity, set up your workspace with 3 columns and these headings:

  • role
  • what I think I’m responsible for
  • what other’s think I’m responsible for

Also add a section to capture any responsibilities that don’t have clear ownership.

Step 2: brainstorm roles

Set a time for 5 minutes.

As a team, list all the different roles in the team, such as team leader, HR advisor, finance officer and so on.

Write these ‘Roles’ section of your workspace.

If there are similar roles, group these together.

For example, if 2 HR Advisors do the same roles but service different areas of the organisation, note this down.

At the end of the 5 minutes, put the people who share the same role in a group.

If you’re running this activity remotely, use breakout rooms or get people to set up a chat or call in another program.

Step 3: write down what’s important for each role

Set a timer for 10 minutes

In groups or on their own, ask everyone to write down up to 5 of the most important things they’re responsible for on separate post-it notes.

After they’ve written down each responsibility, ask each group or person to rank the responsibilities from most to least important.

Step 4: ask others what they think is important for each role

Set a timer for 10 minutes.

Have everyone look at the roles belonging to other people or groups and add any responsibilities they feel might be missing.

If your team thinks of tasks that don’t have a clearly defined owner, write these down and place them off to the side to discuss later.

Large teams with more than 3 people in each role

Set a time for 5 minutes.

Ask groups with lots of people to consolidate their list of responsibilities for their role.

Step 5: work out who is responsible for what

Set a timer for 15 minutes.

If you have a lot of roles, you may need more than 15 minutes to get through everyone.

For each role, have the owner briefly present what they think their role’s priorities are.

Get them to place their post-it notes in the ‘what I think I’m responsible for’ column.

Next, go around the room to find out what the rest of the team thinks.

Each person in your team needs to tell the owner what they think forms part of the owner’s priority responsibilities.

The owner can accept or decline the responsibilities. If they decline a responsibility, they must suggest what role they feel that responsibility belongs to.

If there are responsibilities that don’t have a clear owner, discuss as a team what role to assign it to.

If there’s an overlap of responsibilities, define who the primary owner of that role is versus what other roles play support or act as a back-up.

Step 6: come to an agreement

Look at what you’ve found as a team.

Write a sentence for each role as a summary using this format:

This role’s primary responsibilities are:

  • Responsibility 1
  • Responsibility 2
  • Responsibility 3

It also acts as a support or back up to [role title].

The primary owner of this role is [name of person].


The primary owners of this role are [names of people].

Check the things your team came up with don’t conflict with someone’s position description or performance development plan.

If they do, you can set up a time to chat with that person or get advice from HR.

Outside of the activity, write this up in a format you can send around to the team and organisation.

You may like to revisit this activity annually or if there’s been a big change in how your team works.