Start with the job description. Most job descriptions include a summary of the most important duties and responsibilities of the position. If the job description isn’t useful (or if there hasn’t been a job description prepared for the position), then the manager and the individual need to discuss and identify the big rocks of the job—the half dozen or so most important tasks, duties, outcomes, or responsibilities of the position.
The easiest way to go about identifying the most important responsibilities of a position is to think about the big rocks of the job. Every person in an organization is involved in dozens of different activities over the course of a day. Whatever the job, it’s the unusual one that only requires the repetitive performance of a limited number of tasks in an eight-hour period. But all of these tasks and activities are done in the service of a small number of key responsibilities—the big rocks of the job. Performance Planning provides a detailed description of how to identify the key job responsibilities of a job using the ‘‘big rocks’’ approach.
One great benefit of taking the big rocks approach to identifying key responsibilities is that during the year, if an employee becomes involved in activities that depart from the mainstream of the position, she can ask herself, ‘‘Which of my key job responsibilities does this activity support?’’ If the activity doesn’t support any of the key responsibilities, then it’s time for her either to eliminate that activity from her day-to-day endeavors, or talk to her boss about the fact that she has a new key responsibility that should be included with the rest when performance appraisal time rolls around.