This is a story of four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody accused Anybody.

Does this sound like your business on some days?

If you do not have systems in your business knowing who is responsible can be a very common problem. However, even if you do have systems, it can still be a problem if your systems do not specify accountability – the “who does what”.

Accountability is an important detail to include when documenting your business systems. When the accountable parties are documented there is no confusion as to who needs to be involved in a system.

Accountability identifies:

  • System Participants – those performing the tasks in the system.
  • System Ownership – those responsible for monitoring system performance, achievement of the system outcome, and for system improvement. Typically, system ownership belongs to an individual.

Do not identify individuals by name.  Instead, identify the roles or positions involved.  It’s not Suzie’s job, it’s the Accounts Receivable Clerk.

For simple systems performed by an individual, it is sufficient to identify the system owner and the participant working the system – AP Clerk, HR Manager, Parts Counter Person, Estimator.

Complex systems involving multiple people or departments require identification of all participants.  Simply naming the roles involved is a great help.

For even greater clarity, however, you also want to show who is responsible for what and when. A good way to show this is with cross-function process diagrams, also known as swim-lane process diagrams.

Cross-function process diagrams have multiple lanes. Each lane represents a system participant.  System tasks to be performed by a participant are placed in their lane. Cross-function diagrams can have either vertical or horizontal lanes.

Swim-lane or Cross-function Process Charts Show Responsibile Roles and Timing

Swim-lane or Cross-function Process Charts Show Responsibile Roles and Timing

With a cross-function process diagram Anybody involved in the system can see what they, and Everyone else, is responsible for and how it relates to the whole system. Nobody should be confused about what Somebody needs to do.

So, if you are not doing it already, make sure to indicate the system owner and system participants when you document your systems. At the very least, name the roles or positions involved. For complex systems involving multiple participants, use cross-function process diagrams to show Who is responsible for What and When. ask a question internet traffic statistics .


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