Thursday, February 25, 2010

Successfully Working in a Role Outside of your Expertise

swiss army knife courtesy flickr user: _tnz photo:383953694 In the current economic conditions (actually for the last couple of decades), organizations are trying to get more done with less resources. A common strategy is to assign additional responsibilities to their current workforce, often in a role that is unfamiliar to them. Some examples:

  • Engineers acting as Project Managers
  • Accountants with IT responsibilities
  • Students on their first job
  • [insert your occupation and extra roles here]

I once worked with a company with the mission statement of

What’s Required, What’s Expected, “And then some

I think that is a practical sequential approach to developing an increasing understanding and proficiency in a new role. That approach has served me well in my transition through too many roles to list - while keeping stress at a manageable level. Most of the time you won’t be expected to be the Rockstar of the new role immediately, but you will likely be expected to show ongoing improvement on the road to mastery. You can effectively apply the following simple process to most objectives, roles, or projects*.

  1. Gain some basic understanding of the subject matter or responsibilities through research, asking questions, observing others, benchmarking, or other methods.
  2. Look for or create an opportunity you are comfortable with to incorporate some of what you learned into the daily work or activity.
  3. Review what worked and didn’t and plan action steps to increase the understanding or improve on the process.
  4. Wash, rinse, repeat indefinitely.

I liberally and deliberately used the word “some” in the steps above. You will maximize your learning and execution if you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Each application of a process-based approach to improvement will increase your effectiveness and confidence in making your next transition.


* Disclaimer: This approach may not be feasible for certain conditions where human safety could be at risk (directly or indirectly).

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