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Case Study (Roles): Working in Teams

Submitted by  on February 19th, 2014

human figures on mismatched puzzle board positionsIn previous blog posts, I’ve been working through case studies illustrating the importance of getting employees on board with any changes in their roles and responsibilities before they start a training course. The training room is not the place to be negotiating changes to people’s employment agreements and manager-employee relationships. Training programs can quickly descend into a farce when employees are kept in the dark and it is left to the trainer to sort out changes to people’s roles.

In this blog post, I want to pick up on a company that we looked at in a previous case study on self-managed work teams. Last time we visited this auto repair shop, we investigated how they went about integrating their new team-working procedures into a comprehensive training program.

Roles and Responsibilities is one of eight factors in Leslie Allan’s PRACTICE Approach™ for improving the impact of training. Find out more and get Leslie’s high impact training guide.

Here, the two owners of the large auto repair company restructured the way cars were repaired in the workshop and mechanics were supported. Mechanics and support staff were reorganized into self-managed work teams, each specializing in particular makes and models of car. Each team comprised five mechanics, a parts inventory clerk and a scheduler. From this reorganization, the owners were expecting to see more satisfied customers and higher throughput. To achieve this end, they scheduled a Working in Teams training program. The program extended over a two week period and involved all floor staff.

This ambitious change project required an extensive rethinking and rewriting of employee role descriptions. In particular, the two owners needed to work out which employees would be responsible for each of the following work areas:

  • team goal setting
  • financial tracking and budget approval
  • recruitment and selection of new team members
  • team member performance management
  • purchasing and invoicing customers
  • work scheduling

Other questions the owners needed to answer were:

  • Will these responsibilities be shared concurrently among team members or rotated?
  • What is the role of the team leader?
  • What is the duration of their leadership?

What other questions can you think of that needed attention before the training program started? Please share your answers by writing your response in the area below.


Over these last few weeks, I’ve been sharing case studies examining the purpose that clarifying roles and performance expectations play in bolstering the success of employee training programs. Not every training program is a major endeavor requiring the creation or rewriting of people’s role descriptions. The purpose of some programs may simply be to enhance existing skills. Here, a conversation between the program participant and their manager about the new performance expectations may be all that is required.

On the other hand, one employee being asked to attend a program may necessitate a completely new role description. For example, a business analyst may be adopting a new role as a project manager.

If you want your training to be effective, whatever your situation, leave no surprises for participants attending your program. Work with participants’ managers to clarify role expectations with participants prior to program start and update the necessary documentation. What you want to avoid is participants fronting up for a training program with little or no inkling that their managers are placing different requirements on their job scope and task performance.

I still see this approach today, where managers are sending people to training “blind”, in the hope that the participants will “get it”. What the participants do “get” with this approach is that their managers did not pay them the due respect and consideration by discussing their requirements beforehand.

Sometimes this happens because the employee reports to two or more managers who have not clearly worked out role scope and performance expectations. In other cases, system implementations are over budget and rushed, with little time left to discuss role expectations with employees.

These are all recipes for poor transference of the skills learned to the participant’s workplace. The message from these case studies is clear. It pays huge dividends when you work with participants’ managers up front to prepare employees for their new roles and responsibilities.

High Impact Training Guide

If you want to create the right learning environment for effective transfer of training to the employee’s workplace, then check out Leslie Allan’s high impact training guide, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance. Learn proven strategies and techniques for finding performance roadblocks, aligning training to real needs, developing training partnerships, engaging learners and maximizing learning transfer. Find out more about Leslie’s From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance and download the free introductory chapter today.

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