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Batman and Robin: How We Describe Teammate Responsibilities

Jun 13, 2017 4 min readWorkplace of the future
Photo of Hailley Griffis
Hailley Griffis

Head of Communications & Content @ Buffer

Hi there! This is an older post that we’ve kept around for transparency but that means that sometimes the information is no longer accurate. Head to our homepage to view our most recent posts.

Have you ever worked on a project where it was unclear who — if anyone — was leading?

✋? I have.

And it made me realize that knowing who is responsible for what and who is leading which projects makes a huge difference in really accomplishing work.

In one of my 1:1s with Kevan awhile ago we spoke about kicking off a marketing podcast, and he said, “Brian is going to be Batman for the podcast. How would you like to be Robin?” This was such a simple metaphor, I immediately understood what he meant. Brian was taking the lead and needed some support; that’s where I had some bandwidth to come in and help out.

We’ve taken the Batman and Robin metaphor and applied it to all parts of our marketing team.

This started back when our now nine-person marketing team was only three people. There was our co-founder, Leo, as well as Kevan and Courtney who were then content crafters and are now Director of Marketing and Director of People. On such a small team, it was especially useful to know whoever wasn’t Batman was Robin, and vice versa.

Here are three key ways that this one simple superhero metaphor continues to be a powerful tool for our marketing team:

Source: Comic Vine

1. Easily see who is in charge of what

As I mentioned above, this metaphor makes it so that responsibilities are a lot more clear. Batman takes the lead and probably has more time to devote to the project or area. Robin supports and assists as needed so that the Dynamic Duo can conquer anything that comes their way.

Not only does this help you and your team better understand the areas a person might own, it’s also helpful to the rest of the company. Other teams at Buffer can figure out who the contact person is for a specific area. For instance, instead of reaching out to the whole marketing team for a question about #bufferchat, they know Arielle is the go-to person — the Batman — for #bufferchat, and if Arielle is not around, Bonnie is Robin.

2. Quickly figure out if someone is taking on too much

One quick glance at a list of areas with Batman and Robin listed next to each makes it quite easy to see if someone on the team might be owning too many areas — or, alternately, if they’re not owning enough, if they’re Robin all the time and they should do a little more Batman-ing on the team.

This is a super easy way to make sure teammates don’t have too much on their plate.

Simply put: Unlike in the comic world, you can’t always be Batman on everything, nor should you always be Robin.

Keep reading for our breakdown of who is Batman and who is Robin on the Buffer marketing team.

3. Cover for vacation time

Even Batman has to take a day off, and when that happens, you know that Robin is there to protect Gotham City or, you know, the Buffer marketing emails.

For a smaller team with lots of recurring responsibilities, most of which can’t necessarily be paused, it’s very beneficial to have a designated person to take over duties when a teammate goes on vacation. We would never want someone on the team to avoid vacation time because they are worried their area won’t be covered, so this is one way to help with that.

Here’s how everything on our marketing team is broken up:

Let’s look at the exact breakdown for how responsibilities are distributed across our Marketing team. The areas that we have included are all things we maintain consistently on our team, they aren’t one-time projects, although this system does work for those as well.

AreaBatmanRobin
Social blogAshAlfred
Open blogHailleyKevan
SSM podcastBrianHailley
bufferchatArielleBonnie
Buffer social media profilesBrianArielle
Community SlackArielle
RespondBonnieKevan
MediumAlfred
SyndicationHailley
PRHailley
Sendgrid emailsKevanMike E
Marketing product launchesKevanMike E
NPSBonnieKevan
Lifecycle emailsMike EKevan
Events & meetupsArielle
Landing pagesSpencerKevan

What happens when there isn’t a Robin

One thing to note is that there isn’t always a Robin, as you can see above. Sometimes Batman flies solo, like in the early days of D.C. Comics, and there’s nothing wrong with that either.

In my case, I don’t have a clear-cut Robin for syndication or for PR. When I go on vacation a few things can happen:

  1. Someone else at Buffer steps in

Courtney has helped out before while I’ve been on vacation by checking my inbox for any PR emails that need immediate responses. She was handling many of my responsibilities before me, and was my role buddy.

2. My Director steps in

I was on vacation when we launched Instagram reminders (that timeline wasn’t quite planned!), so I did the PR work ahead of the launch and then on launch day Kevan was able to hit send on emails for me and follow the flow I had outlined.

3. Things pause for a bit

Some of the areas that don’t have clear Robins happen to be areas where things can pause for a bit, and it doesn’t immediately negatively impact business at Buffer. Syndication, events, and Medium are a few examples. This wouldn’t work for areas like responding to customers (the Respond portion of our areas) where it does need to consistently be monitored. When Bonnie, aka Respond Batman, recently took a few days off, Kevan (Respond Robin) and a few other folks in Marketing jumped in to cover the inbox.

Over To You

We’d love to hear from you, as always! Super curious how this relates to anything your team does, or if this sparks any ideas.

  • How do you break up team responsibilities at your company?
  • Can you easily identify some things you are Batman or Robin on?
  • Could a system like this work for your team?

Image source: WOCintech

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