196 Assessing the Present and the Future
By answering these questions, the organization can begin to establish an informa-
tion system to track key positions, key position incumbents, and individual perform-
ance.
Three Approaches to Determining Work
Requirements in Key Positions
Once key positions have been identified, direct attention to determining the work
requirements in those positions. After all, the only way that individuals can be pre-
pared as replacements for key positions is to clarify first what the incumbents do and
what kind of characteristics they possess. At least three ways may be used to do that.
1. Conducting Job and Task Analysis
Job analysis summarizes or outlines the activities, responsibilities, duties, or essential
functions of a job. Task analysis goes a step beyond job analysis to determine what
must be done to carry out each activity or to meet each responsibility, duty, or essen-
tial function. The result of a job analysis is called a job description; the result of a task
analysis is called a task inventory.
Some authorities distinguish between the terms job and position.Ajob consists of
a group of related activities and duties. Ideally, the duties of a job should consist of
natural units of work that are similar and related, and they should be clear and distinct
from those of other jobs to minimize misunderstanding and conflict among employ-
ees and to enable employees to recognize what is expected of them. For some jobs,
several employees may be required, each of whom will occupy a separate position.
A position consists of different duties and responsibilities performed by only one
employee.
7
It is thus important to distinguish between a job description, which provides infor-
mation about an entire job category (such as supervisors, managers, or executives),
and a position description, which provides information unique to one employee. In
most cases, the focus of determining work requirements for SP&M is on positions
because the aim is to identify work requirements unique to key positions.
What Is a Position Description?
A position description summarizes the duties, activities, or responsibilities of a posi-
tion. Hence, it literally describes a position in one organizational setting. It answers
this question: ‘‘What are incumbents in the position expected to do in the organiza-
tion?’’
No universal standards exist either for job descriptions or for position descrip-
American Management Association
www.amanet.org

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