In this chapter, we’ll explore the Organizational Cognizance Model and the Org Graph in greater depth, demonstrating how a focus on Positions, Purpose, Nodes, and Edges can bring clarity to an organization and Cognizance to its ICs. First, though, I want to relate an experience I recently had during a two-day strategic retreat I was facilitating for a client. If your organization is anything like the 1,000s we have graduated from the EOS program, this short anecdote demonstrates the kind of frustration that’s simmering in your ranks and why the classic Org Chart can’t address it.

The client in question is a janitorial supply distributor, which is why the owner’s 5:30 a.m. F3 workout group has nicknamed him “Two-Ply.” The company is sizeable – more than $100 million in annual sales – and cute names aside, no laughing matter. I’d been coaching leaders at this organization for two years, and pretty much from day one, we realized that the Director of Sales, who’d been with the company for thirty years, simply didn’t get it. We worked with him, giving him the chance to really define the Positions that comprised his Job and to develop a go-to-market strategy the company could support, but to no avail. Three months before the annual meeting, leadership helped him select retirement, and about a month before this meeting, they brought in a new Sales Director, who we’ll call Jack.

The first day of an annual meeting for us is all about team health and getting people to really speak their minds. Senior leaders, including the new Sales Director, Jack, were in attendance, as was one of the organization’s top Sales Reps. It’s a sales-based business, so we wanted a strong voice from the salesforce present, someone who spends his time in the field.

Near the end of the first day, this experienced Sales Rep, who we’ll call Mike, finally blew his top. We had been talking about the organization’s Core Values, Purpose, Trust, and Belief – topics I covered in depth in my previous book, The Patient Organization – when Mike blurted out that the company “has never had sales leadership.” When encouraged to speak his mind, he explained that none of the Sales Reps knew what a new account was defined as, what the marketing strategy was, or what the focus should be. People weren’t sure who to report to about what, who should be Coaching them, or what Teams they were a part of. Should a new account be defined as $5,000 in annual sales, $12,000, $20,000? The targets seemed always to be moving. Who was the organization’s ideal client, Mike wondered, who should they be going after?

Mike enjoyed talking about Core Values and organizational Purpose, but such discussions seemed futile when he didn’t understand his own Purpose, where he fit in this organization, or how its various parts (think “Nodes,” though he didn’t use that term) were supposed to connect and work together. Not a great way to end the first day, especially for a company that just had its best year ever and should have been celebrating.

The next morning, we came in and did an exercise I call Cracking Eggs and Making Omelets to detail the Job and Positions held by Jack, the new Sales Director. I will go through this exercise step by step in the next chapter, on facilitation, but for now, suffice it to say, that with input from the team of leaders, we were able to lay out all of Jack’s responsibilities and Positions, organized around the company’s sales structure. Below are the eight critical parts of his Job, or “Positions,” that we came up with (Note: you can add “How we do…” in front of each Position for more clarity. For instance, Jack owned the “How we do Prospecting” Position and the “How we do Closing” Position).

  1. Prospecting
  2. Closing
  3. Client Retention
  4. Team Leadership (recruiting, onboarding, engaging, and retaining ICs)
  5. Product Inventory / Process
  6. Market Feedback (product mix / info)
  7. Sales Team Training
  8. Overall Sales Direction and Corporate Integration (revenue, margins)

In the interests of space, I’m only presenting the finished framework here. We spent a couple hours building this list, discussing each Position, what it entailed, and how it connected with Individual Contributors in sales. It then became Jack’s task, with input from other leaders, to write a Purpose Statement for every one of his Positions and to set long-term and short-term Objectives for each.

When we’d finished the exercise, we turned to Mike, the frustrated Sales Rep, and asked, if Jack actually executes and leads from these Positions, does this fill the sales leadership vacuum? Do you understand now where to go for answers and where direction will come from? Yes, said Mike, looking energized. This is a forty-four-year-old guy with three children, whose frustration had been growing in direct proportion to his desire to excel. Was he relieved? You better believe it. Mike was suddenly engaged, and Jack, a sharp guy and new to the team, understood the many facets of his job on a much deeper level. Both had taken major steps toward Organizational Cognizance.

With input from colleagues and leaders, Mike, like Jack, will need to define his Positions as Sales Rep and build Purpose Statements and Objectives for each (we’ll show you step by step in the next chapter how to do this for an entire organization). The Sales Director and the Sales Rep then fill out the Nodes and Edges for every one of their Positions, using the one-page Organizational Cognizance Model Position / Job Capture Template or capturing these in their Org Graph software. We’ll explore how Nodes and Edges function in a moment, but first, let’s take a closer look at the notion of “Positions,” which are the basic building blocks and starting point for the Organizational Cognizance Model.

Almost any Job includes several Positions. From the list in our example above, we observe that the Job of Sales Director, held by Jack, is made up of eight Positions – one called Prospecting, another called Closing, a third called Client Retention, etc. I hope readers can see straightaway that thinking in terms of Positions and not just Jobs provides everyone at the organization with a clearer and more specific view of what’s going on.

I cannot tell you how many times over the years that I have encountered new “Marketing Directors” who aren’t clear what actual work that amorphous title entails. When, however, we break the “Job” listed on the old Org Chart down into Positions, clarity starts to emerge. The job of Marketing Director often includes these positions: Marketing Strategy for New Leads, Marketing Strategy for New Hires, Product Positioning, Copy Editor, Art Director, Online Advertising Coordinator, Brand Positioning Cop, Supervisor / Mentor / Coach.

Just by listing the Positions – we haven’t even gotten to their attendant Nodes and Edges yet – you can already imagine a set of Skills, Objectives, Responsibilities, Measures, etc. arising from the more specific terms. “Online Advertising Coordinator” implies that the owner of this Position knows something about search engine optimization, Google AdWords, and a range of Internet ad platforms. Depending on priorities, long-term Objectives might include things like maximizing our website experience or online sales, and Key Results will likely be measured in the short term by page views, click-throughs, monthly online revenue, etc.

Four arguments for the word Position.

  1. The focus on Positions provides clarity for their owners, and for the people who report to and interact with them in the organization’s workflow. Where is your position in the company’s workflow? Mike, the Sales Rep at the janitorial supply distributor, for example, better understood the moving parts at his organization and how they should be working together once the Sales Director’s Positions were defined and out in the open.
  • In addition to indicating a particular function or role, “Position” also implies placement in time, a snapshot that can change day to day if necessary. Flexibility and timeliness are critical for maintaining Organizational Cognizance, since Individual Contributors must be Cognizant of the daily reality of the organization and how it functions – that’s the whole point of the Model – and not some vague, dated command-and-control structure that reveals little about actual operations.
  • Each Position has a particular perspective, and when two Positions focus on something, you can determine exactly where it lies. In navigation, we call this triangulation: you see something from a particular Position, your bearing; somebody else looks at it from their Position, their bearing, and together, you can get a precise location fix on that thing.
  • Finally, I like the term “Position” because it embodies the idea of belief, a particular stance. What’s your position/opinion on this issue? Since it’s my contention, as noted in Chapter 1, that an organization is a fiction resting entirely on the belief of its members, this connotation of “Position” is not just a linguistic trick. It is existential, central to what it means to belong and to believe and in a very real sense, to create an organization anew on a daily basis. “Position” implies that every team member, from the janitor to the CEO, believes in the same single organization and plays a vital role in its survival.

The following image often helps ICs and leaders grasp the utility of this new way of thinking about organizational structure. Imagine your Job as a domed-topped table with your Positions as boxes hanging off it. I tell my clients that our goal is to create such clear Jobs and Positions that we have no confusion. An issue shaped like a ball-bearing drops from the sky and lands on our domed Job table. What is it going to do? Roll is the answer, of course, and our goal is to be sure that nothing slips through our box-shaped Positions and hits the floor. Nothing gets stuck between Positions or gets footballed back and forth between them, and we don’t ever have a Position that is full and cannot take anything else because then our rolling issue will spill over and hit the floor. Positions are the ultimate catchers and handlers of issues in our organization.

Diagram of how things can slip through the cracks of a poorly crafted org structure.

I’m not suggesting that the category of “Job” should disappear, only that the term “Position” adds detail and is more precise. Position, which for me was a natural outgrowth of my sports and sailing experience, has the precision we are looking for. Consider the difference between telling someone that their Job is “football player” versus explaining to them their Job is “Special Teams Football Player” and they will play this Position on Kick-offs, this Position on Punt Returns, this Position on Field-goals.  Hearing the Positions gives the Individual Contributor a much better sense of expectation, Purpose and orientation. It’s the first step in understanding where they fit on the team and how they interact with Teammates, Coaches, and Systems, the first step toward Organizational Cognizance.

HR NOMENCLATURE: Unfortunately, there is no “HR Standards Body” that dictates the nomenclature around HR. Below is a simple table you can reference if the words I am using make your head spin. It includes the vocabulary and perspective, a couple of other examples, and the specific taxonomy used by EOSÒ (the Entrepreneurial Operating SystemÔ), one of today’s popular Organizational Operating Systems businesses adopt to help focus and execute their visions.  
ModelOrg Chart Box NameSub UnitNamed Descriptor 1Named Descriptor 2
Org Cognizance ModelÔJobPositionPurpose StatementsRoles and Responsibilities
Org Chart Example AJobRoleDuties
Org Chart Example BPositionJobsRoles and Resp.
EOSÒ Accountability ChartÔ ModelSeatRole

Note: I am firm on the term Jobs and the spot they hold because almost 100 percent of the HRIS systems out there –,,, NetSuite, Certipay, etc. – tie Jobs to their Org Charts. You post Jobs to Job boards, where people are looking for Jobs, which are filled by humans. You get a Job, you see yourself in the Job box on the Org Chart. Accounting and Finance use those Jobs to create budgets…Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. The term isn’t going anywhere, so it is ours to use.

“But what about when we have an open Position?” you ask, and, what you mean is you have a Job opening in your Org Chart and you are interchanging the word Job and Position, well, randomly. In the nomenclature of OCM, this is a misuse of the word “Position.” Our goal is to get very precise in your organizational language, use ONE word to mean ONE thing, not three or four, resulting in no clear meaning.

In the Organizational Cognizance Model, that hole in the Org Chart is an “open Job,” not a Position. This Job, like all Jobs, contains Positions that are explained by Purpose Statements; paragraphs that describe the roles, responsibilities and duties.