All too often, we find ourselves saying this to a peer or colleague – or having it said to us.  This common confusion about assignments, projects, and clients leads to inefficiencies, missed deadlines or opportunities, and even a “finger-pointing” group dynamic and lessened employee and partner satisfaction. 

But, there is a simple solution!  It starts with defining ownership of your firm’s key functional areas and then helping your team members understand their role and the specific duties for which they are responsible (an idea that I’ll cover in a future blog, so stay tuned!).

To begin defining ownership, create a “firm-wide roles grid” that separates each of the key functional areas within your firm into its own “box.”  Functional areas may be departments such as human resources, marketing, internal IT, and accounting/bookkeeping.  They may also be service lines that you offer – audit, tax, or small business services, for example.  And, depending upon your firm’s size, they may also be divisions or geographic locations.

Your firm’s roles grid may look something like this:


Strategic Planning

Staff Recruiting/

Staff Retention

Office Admin.

Financial Planning

Billing and Bookkeeping



Service Delivery and Scheduling

Risk Management

Client Satisfaction

Internal IT

Director of Fun

Training and Development

Service Line – Audit

Service Line – EBP

Service Line – Tax

Service Line – SALT

Location – CITY

Location - CITY


Then, determine whose name belongs in each box as the ONE owner responsible for driving that aspect of your firm forward – usually a senior team member at a firm-wide level.  Every department, service line, initiative, and location in your firm should have one single owner.

Many of our clients struggle to single out just one person for each key area.  Sometimes this is because they don’t want to give all the “power” to that one person to make all of the decisions in that area where they also have an opinion or stake, they believe that more owners equals shared and more efficient work in that area and they don’t want to overburden themselves or a team member with “all” of the work, or because they really don’t know who does – or should – own that area.

Believe me when I say that none of these reasons lead to a good outcome!  When there is more than one owner on any task or function, there is the equivalent of no owner because the multiple owners “assume” that the other person is taking the lead, they duplicate efforts, and/or generate confusion among their team members about who is making assignments and to whom they should report progress.

And when you take ownership, it does not mean you’ll be doing all of the work yourself either.  The one owner for each element will establish the goals for their area, identify the resources necessary to meet those goals, and then ensure the success of their overall plan.  In this way, they act as the facilitator and strategist for their area and enroll others in shaping the goals, using a team approach to implement their plans.

To divvy up the high level functional areas, we recommend creating secondary roles grids for each area.  For instance, the area of marketing might be further broken into ownership of the firm’s marketing budget, strategy, social media, web site, promotional materials, and so on.

Be careful when identifying your owners that one person does not own too much as this is a sign that leadership is not being developed around this individual and you may have bottleneck and/or succession issues.

Eliminate confusion around ownership starting with defining ownership for each function in your firm.  Then, clearly assign tasks so no one has to say, “I thought you were doing that!”

Plan to attend the next event in our Partner Performance and Accountability Web Seminar Series - Setting Partner Expectations and Reporting to Drive Performance and Accountability on June 7 at 11:00 ET for more about establishing ownership and setting expectations for your partner team (and others!).  Get the session description and register at

Please use the comments area to share your thoughts on the subject of defining ownership.  Thanks for reading!

Warm regards,