Flying Elephant Syndrome

Not identifying the job properly resulting in “Flying Elephant Syndrome”

Obviously small businesses are not good at documentation and procedures, and this hurts probably more in the hiring arena than it does anywhere else. The two instruments that can help specify the components of the job that you are looking to fill are the job description and the key accountabilities questionnaire.

The concept of the job description is known and understood by most people and yet it is something that is fraught with difficulties.

A more compelling tool is the “key accountabilities” approach that I use. Rather than listing the rather mechanistic aspects of the job description, the key accountabilities looks instead at what the key components of the job are, and what will be the determinant of a job well done. 

Instead of a rather dry list of all the things that are expected of an employee, this looks forward to the first review and identifies the elements that will determine whether an employee has been successful or not. By looking back from an expected position, it becomes much easier to identify what success is unnecessary in order to be successful in the position.

The use of this tool also avoids what I like to call “flying elephant syndrome”. This is where you put together a job that comprises two very disparate elements that simply cannot be carried out effectively by the same individual.
Examples of this would include: 

  •  A bookkeeper making sales calls
  •  A sales person required to handle project management on their orders
  •  An administrative assistant managing technical staff


Many times the solution to the “flying elephant” problem is to reclassify the job and to split it up into components based upon behavioral stylesand functional job components that belong together.

See the article Key Accountabilities for a fuller description of this technique  

The Four Critical Steps to Hiring

  • Establish the Profile

    Make sure that you know what talent you are trying to hire. Start from scratch and take time to define the job rather than rushing and simply rehiring the person that you are replacing.    

    The Time Edge



  • Develop the Process

    Successful hiring depends on having real choices. Write advertisements that will attract a large pool of candidates and have a process so that heavy response levels don’t stretch your resources    .

    The Time Edge

  • Grade Candidates

    You can’t afford to rush the selection process. You need to have an effective screening process and evaluate candidate skills carefully in relation to the job profile you established.

    Edge Business Essentials

  • Evaluate and Execute

    It is essential to have a robust interviewing process. You need to have candidates interviewed thoroughly and then check references and do background checks.

    The Alternative Board