Co-Responsibility Is No Responsibility

In my work I’ve come across clients that seem to have decided not to make a decision when it comes to their organizational chart and defined roles. This comes in many forms, such as the Co-CTOs, two VPs with overlapping responsibilities, the flat team with no designated leader, etc.

This might have been the easier option to go with initially, because of political correctness, ego, unknowns, and a myriad of other excuses. Yet in 9 times out of 10 these configurations are detrimental to the success of your organization. A clear structure should be established and made known to everyone.

First is the responsibility issue. When two people are responsible for the same thing, it is too easy to assume the other one is taking care of something, and on the contrary it is often too hard to drive an innovative vision and make decisions when your partner has ideas of their own with equal weight. Innovation and leadership rarely originates in committees, no matter how small in cases of co-responsibility or how big in cases of flat orgs.

And on the other side here you’ve got your team. What exactly are they supposed to do? No one can serve two masters, or bosses, proficiently. Two main aspects this affects are tactics and hiring/retention.

The day-to-day tactics take a hit when it comes to having to get someone’s approval, syncing, and so on. Who should the team talk to? Teams are usually chaotic enough without the need to perform a two-phase-commit for every decision required.

And on the personal perspective, which is of great import for hiring and retention, The Boss are one of the most significant qualities of a job. You are less likely to land amazing hires if they need to be sold on and trust two people instead of one, or have no clear leader that they can visualize working with.

As uncomfortable as it might seem, you have to think of what’s best for your team in the long run. Make the decision of who makes which decisions and move on.