Your long-time executive assistant just came into your office with some good news/bad news; for her, the good news is she’s retiring to a beach house in Cabo. For you, the bad news is that you’ve got to replace her – and she’s been a terrific employee. So – how do you write up the job description to find her replacement? “Wanted: Middle-aged lady named Dorothy. Must have black hair, a sense of humor, and enjoy eating cottage cheese at her desk.”

No? No. You’re not actually advertising for another Dorothy, as admirable as she is. You’re looking for someone to take on her job, and of course that’s what you’ll describe in the ad. This probably sounds absurdly obvious – yet it’s amazing how many companies I consult with who fail to clearly define jobs in terms of processes rather than specific people. And that’s asking for trouble when the people currently holding the jobs leave. That’s why one of the primary things you should do during the relative quiet of a consolidation phase is to clearly define every position, detailing not only their responsibilities but also the processes they’ll be expected to know and follow. How do they interact with IT, and what specific skills do they need to do their jobs? With what departments do they regularly interact? What decisions are they empowered to make, and what are the metrics they’re expected to meet on a daily, weekly, and quarterly basis? Is there an ongoing learning component to their job? How and when is their performance assessed?

When you’re clear about what the processes are, your company won’t be thrown off course when someone leaves or retires. New hires will be able to fit smoothly into a well-documented process. You’ll be able to hand them a process that’s spelled out on paper, with a technology that supports it. Despite employee changes, each role will continue to function, even though it’s filled now by a different individual.

When your company is in the consolidation phase, it’s the perfect time for you to learn and understand exactly what everyone who works for you is responsible for – and to make sure those jobs are fully documented. Don’t focus on who is sitting in the chairs; instead, make sure you have the exact chairs you need, regardless of who fills them.