Editor's Blog

Somebody's Job

December 27, 2009

At my company, we used to get derailed by the simplest of tasks. We struggled to master the many tasks required to run our business and keep our promises. Even the simplest of tasks could require a lot of different people doing different parts of it.

Sometimes, we had two people doing the exact same task at the same exact time! But neither of them knew the other was doing it until it was too late, if at all. And sometimes, no one did the task because they were convinced that it must be someone else’s job to do it.

Such scenarios caused a ton of stress, lost opportunities and some potential disasters.

We only discovered how often this stuff was really going on when we sat down in groups to map out what it took to get each task done. What came into focus is the need to map out the steps for each task but that was only helpful if we also assigned who was responsible for doing the task as well.

Those meetings were gut-wrenching! But exactly what we needed to do.

Here's what I know:

When it takes multiple people to complete even the simplest of tasks it tends to be done poorly, wastefully and with a lack of accountability. Plus, there’s a much bigger chance that something will get screwed up. Think of this approach as if it were a relay race. The more the baton must be passed the more likely it will get dropped and the less likely you’ll win the race.

There are root causes for multiple people having to be involved in routine tasks. The biggest problems are a lack of proper delegation and accountability.

There can be training or skills issues with the people who are assigned to the completion of the job at hand. And that ineffective person is typically given a crutch in the form of another person to help them overcome what they themselves should be able to do. All of which produces:

“It’s my job. Sort of.”

Now when there are two people who end up doing the exact same task but they don’t know the other is also doing it, the root cause is a lack of communication. This is usually rampant in companies that think they’re too busy to meet. So, everyone runs around doing things thinking:

“If I don’t do it, nobody will.”

When nobody does the task at a company, the root cause is that it was never defined and assigned to someone specifically on the Org. Chart in the first place. It was never discussed. And to all those who try to run their shops with bulleted job descriptions vs. a living manual there’s a big chance it’s a missing bullet.

“Hey, it’s not on my bulleted list, so it’s not my job!”

How do you fix this?

Start with a solid Org. Chart and define what tasks must get done within each box. Then, figure out who the person is who sits in that box [even if it’s just you!]. That person in that box needs to know who if anybody is available to help them complete which specific tasks.

The next step is to map out the steps of each task and assign who is doing what part of it [try to keep the number of people involved to a minimum]. Finally, if a person in the box lacks the skills they need to do all the tasks, train them. If they don’t pick up their skills, either move them to another box or move them out all together.

Master the tasks you do 80% of the time in a systematic and repeatable way and your company will have confident employees who can say, “It’s my job and you can count on me to get it done.”


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