ARE Model – How to align roles and expectations in a team

In this post I will be sharing my experience on how I’ve facilitated workshops for several teams to align on roles and expectations. I haven’t come up with a fancy name for it yet! Respecting simplicity so naming it Align(ed) Roles and Expectations (ARE) Model. “We ARE Team” tada!


A few hundred moon days ago!

# Message Notification sound “Hi Khurram, you got a minute to talk?”
> “Yes, absolutely, how can I help?”
# “In my team, there is a conflict situation and some people are not getting along, could you help us with this situation?”
>> To me, these words tasted like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, a mountain view, smell of Rose flowers and let’s not forget the taste of Biryani and Nihari…
> Yeah sure, let’s book some time in coming weeks and meanwhile I can think over it. See ya!

While taking my morning coffee I was brainstorming about the workshop and browsing, I came across below meme images and it was a light bulb moment for me. I felt that I have an option to experiment with. The idea for ARE model was born.

The Google’s Project Aristotle to discover the secrets of effective teams at Google. The researcher after using over 35 different statistical models on hundreds of variables found that the team effectiveness really mattered more about how the team work together than who is on the team.

Keeping the Aristotle project in mind. Here, I am connecting the ARE model with the point 3 – Structure & Clarity and discuss how it can impact rest of 4 points.

Align(ed) Roles & Expectation (ARE) Model

The model has three parts.

  1. Identify Role(s) Name
  2. What I am doing?
  3. What others think I do?

First, identify the roles if they aren’t done already. The workshops that I facilitated, the roles were already known so the conversation was focused on aligning them.

Second, how the role is seen or being done by the person. If I am a ScrumMaster then “What I am doing in that role currently?” I facilitate Scrum events, remove impediments, drink coffee, etc..

Third, how team members (other roles) see the role performed by the person. Here it could be that other role seeing ScrumMaster helping the team to understand Scrum Framework, promote experimentation, increase collaboration etc…

Note: I am separating the role from the person, a role is not a person rather performed by a person. This activity focuses more on understanding each other’s role.

Facilitation Guide

The material for the workshop, an area to draw and put sticky notes (a big white board or flip charts) sharpies and different colour sticky notes.

0. Check-in & Create safety

At the start of the workshop ask the participants …

“How everyone is feeling?” to read the emotional field in the room.

“How do you want to be with each other in this workshop”. We are here to align on roles rather discussing people.

  1. Identify all the roles (5 mins)

You can do this before the workshop or at the start of the workshop by inviting people to identity the existing roles in the team(s) and want to explore.

  1. Draw ARE model (5 mins)

Use any of the below visualisations and create respective number of role areas. Explain the ARE model to participants

  1. Role exploration (10 mins)

Assign a sticky note color per role or ask participants to write the roles (from, to) on the sticky note. Invite participants to write one thought/action per sticky note about what they are doing in their role (What I am doing?). And also write one thought/action per sticky note about all other roles (What I think others are doing?).

For example if a person Y has role of ScrumMaster, First, the person Y will write what different things she/he is doing. Second, also write about “what I think other roles are doing” like Product Owner, Development Team or Technical Lead are doing. If there are four roles then each person will write about own and three other roles.

  1. Role conversation (What others think I do?) (7 mins x number of Roles)

Ask participants which role to start with? For example, if the participants want to start with the ScrumMaster (SM) role. Then ask all other persons/roles one by one to share “What do they think SM role does” and place in the respective SM role area on the board or flip chart.

This will populate the point 3 of the model.

  1. Role conversation (What I am doing?)

Next, invite the person who has SM role to put the sticky notes in “What I am doing?” area.

This will populate the point 2 of the model.

  1. Role debrief and reflection

While the steps 4 and 5 are happening, keep scanning the emotional field in the room.

The role done vs seen could be very well aligned or there is a grey area. It could be that an activity is performed by the ScrumMaster which Development team should do or can do. This could be an opportunity to explore and teach or mentor the participants.

In one of the workshops that I facilitated, the two roles who worked for sometime were unaligned on certain areas and this was causing a lot of friction and stepping on each others’ foot. In another one, the participants and good understand of each others’ role and this activity acted as affirmation where people are contributing.

  1. Repeat Step 4,5 and 6 for all the remaining roles
  2. Take a helicopter ride (10 mins)

Invite the participants to zoom out and take helicopter view of all the roles and ask …

“If something is missing?”

“What new you have learned about each other?”

“What was surprising to you?”

“What are you proud of?”

  1. Any action(s)? ) (5 mins)

Take note of any action(s) that participants have decided to take. For example booking a separate meeting to talk more about particular aspects.

10. Check out

Ask “What is your take away in one sentence” and say Check out.

To summarise

What I have seen and heard from the teams after the workshop is that it has developed mutual respect by listening to each other with openness thus leading to building trust as it becomes transparent who is doing what. It brought people together by building upon differences. With clarity on roles, team could understand who is covering what and how they can support each other and it created a sense of shared leadership.

Overall, it can help create 360 role view and empathy “We ARE Team”!

Please experiment with it and leave your comment!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s