General principles when thinking about roles

Jason Yip
Jul 10, 2023


Derived from my old blog back in 2013.

“What is the right thing to do?” NOT “Is this part of my job?”

Authority-focus: “Not my job, not my problem.” Responsibility-focus: “What is the right thing to do? How can I help?”
Authority-focus vs Responsbility-focus

Reference: John Shook on responsibility-focus versus authority-focus; see Managing to Learn.

“If we fail, then I fail”

People on a boat sinking on one end. The people at sinking end are bailing out water. The people at the other end say “Sure glad that hole isn’t at our end”.
Sure glad that hole isn’t at our end.

Less people (via combined roles) means less communication overhead

Table showing the number of communication paths based on the # of people involved.
# of people vs # of communication paths

Reference: Steve McConnell on team size and communication paths

Prefer T-shaped people

I-shape: specialist, hyphen-shape: generalist, t-shape: generalising specialist
Specialists vs generalists vs generalising specialists

References: Why T-shaped people?. A T-shaped person is capable in many… | by Jason Yip | Medium

Adjust the roles to fit the people NOT adjust the people to fit the roles

Picture of a circular person and the role they’re supposed to fill which doesn’t match their shape.
People don’t perfectly look like role descriptions



Jason Yip

Senior Manager Product Engineering at Grainger. Extreme Programming, Agile, Lean guy. Ex-Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl