Business procedures, such as the development of new services, the procurement of material, the production of goods or the distribution of commodities, are improved through the active Business Process Management (BPM). For this purpose, the procedures are described and weaknesses are visualized in order to optimize the sequence of activities so that only the right thing is done right, e.g.
better involved customers,
more reliable delivery,
accelerated turnaround time,
minimized time and costs,
and so on.
The desired effects can not be accomplished, if existing approaches and demands get in the way of real progress. This leads to losses of friction that do not disappear with the designing of processes.
Often these hurdles are homemade. A good example of impeding attitudes is the way of dealing with tasks, authority and responsibility.
Tasks without authority and responsibility The actual work is performed as a task. Usually something is created, processed, finished or executed – e.g. building a prototype, polishing a surface, assembling a device, washing a car. In order to be able to perform the task, the performers need appropriate knowledge and skills.
However, if they lack the appropriate authority and responsibility for the results, then the fulfillment will be poor.
Authority without tasks and responsibility The authority describes the rights that somebody has. This includes the permissions to perform or direct something – e.g. to use a certain machine for manufacturing or to give instructions to the employees. The corresponding permissions must be known by all involved people.
If someone has sufficient authorities, but no task or responsibility, the competence loses its effect.
Responsibility without task and authority Responsibility describes the commitments that you make. This can be direct responsibility or shared responsibility – direct responsibility refers to one’s own actions and the activities of directly assigned employees; the shared responsibility arises, if one has indirect influence on occurrences as part of a team (in the sense of cling together, swing together).
Individuals like to adorn themselves with the glow of responsibility – especially, if it does not result in any consequences, because there are no tasks associated or special permissions required.
In simple words: Tasks, authority and responsibility should ALWAYS be in one hand for the sake of adequate results. It makes no sense to assign someone to a task without the necessary authorities for the fulfillment and without the responsibility for the result. Good examples are the Japanese line workers, who perform subtasks in making a car. They have the right and duty to immediately stop the line, if they find a mistake. This allows the earliest possible correction of the flaw. That way they avoid the accumulation of unnecessary rework. At the same time, costly decision-making processes are avoided, which would burden the process.
Bottom line: The design of processes often begins with the application of IT, in the hope that this can improve the process. However, often old rules and roles are retained. As a result, for example, task, authority and responsibility remain in different hands. Even, if it is faster and you only have to click once to fulfill your responsibilities or to allow the performers to do their job. The largest effect is achieved by transferring the task, authority and responsibility to the people, who fulfill the task. They know what to do, can decide how to do it, and strive for the required quality of the result. That way, the losses of friction in a process are minimized.
After years of organizational development, lifelong learning has come to business reality with the Generation Y. Born between 1980 and 2000, they rely on basic things, like their private and business groups, the balance between work and life, opportunities, where they can prove themselves and having fun. At the same time they are always online. Unfortunately, not all tasks are on the edge of innovation or deliver fast success stories in the shortest possible time. This is why companies ask themselves what inspires employees. Maybe it helps to make tasks an adventure?
However, what makes an adventure out of regular tasks, as they occur a thousand times? An important obstacle is the fact that adventures are created in the mind of each person. From the outside, you can only make proposals, but the required attitude everybody develops for oneself. Which explanations foster the desired attitude?
New tasks are exciting Of course. Unknown fields must be discovered. There is no standard solution that can be or even has to be copied. All participants are on the same level playing field. Here you can show what you are able to do. The fact that the tasks are again and again similar disturbs some people. In order to let the halo of the new outshines everything, it helps to draw the attention to the things that are different, that are applied for the first time. Even the extraordinary length can create this charm of unconventional. Projects are per se unique activities and have never happened before. Great tasks are, of course, always an adventure.
Routine tasks can be continually improved The horror for the adventurer are habitual activities that are repeated. There is nothing new in it that provokes excitement. And yet the practice introduced has its charms. In addition to the continuous improvement, which aims to generate progress from every cycle and every simple result, there is a danger in the exercise of the impractical work which must be avoided. Regular practice makes the processes so internal that they are handled unconsciously. Just as piano players play a piece of music so often from the sheet, until the fingers take control and the musicians can concentrate on the subtle nuances, the same way the routine facilitates to take care of the subtleties of the business. This internalization of the processes and the possible perfection makes routine tasks an adventure.
Simple tasks can be improved Even the simplest activities, which seem to require little talent at first sight, which usually take the form of routine tasks, but which obviously do not require any genius, offer unexpected senses of achievement to the attentive people. The accomplishment of simple tasks seems to be beneath the dignity of well-educated people. It is just that the small things that pull the great ones off. It is crucial to focus all senses on the ongoing activity. If you forget the world around you and the time flies unnoticed, you develop the feeling of happiness, which Mihály Csikeszentmihályi calls flow. Looking at the slightest differences and improvement opportunities that are in the execution of a simple activity, make the execution a sensual adventure.
Unintended tasks expand the capabilities The biggest obstacle to an adventurous task are the resistances that are built up before the actual activity even starts. This non-willingness often has simple reasons. The most difficult thing is, when the concerned people do not know the task – What has to be done? What do you have to consider? How long can it last? And why at all? At the same time, the advertisers usually know the answer to these questions and could convey the right answers in a challenging language. Sometimes the workforce can not cope with the task – How does it work? How should I create this with my language skills? How can I cope with this without training? Just as farmers prepare their field for sowing, a manager should prepare his employees for a task. As unbelievable as it sounds, but sometimes employees are even not allowed performing the tasks. There are regulations, which prohibit the execution of the activity or because a superior has something else in mind for them. In these cases, you should help the employees by obtaining approval beforehand. If none of the three cases are valid and they still do not want, the resistance has deeper reasons which may have nothing to do with the task. Maybe they just need a new job. Wanted tasks are always an adventure.
Bottom line: Most orders are not a mission to Mars. This, however, does not bother the fact of being an adventure. In every day business, there are always new tasks, which are per se adventurous. In addition, routine tasks or simple activities also offer venture. In the end, it is important that the employees develop the will to carry out the task and commit themselves to the duty. Even the mission to Mars is always rehearsed – actually pure routine. Since adventures happen in mind, means that they are a question of personal attitudes and understanding, the leaders should take care of breathing adventure spirit into every task, according to the motto: Every task an adventure.
When we meet other people, by nature we differ in physical, cultural and mental characteristics – height, weight, age, origin, language, culture, class, attitudes, abilities, activities and so on. Even close relatives develop more and more differences over time. Respectively many people desire an equal and respectful interaction with each other. On closer look it appears that this desired level playing field is for no one free.
Actually it is mainly a matter of making common cause in a spirit of no prejudging, of mutual confidence and with respect. The alternative positions are unpleasant for some people. Although the protagonists decide, in which position they are, apart from having equal level there are the following point of views.
Worm’s-eye view For those people, who look at cooperation from this perspective, a feeling of inferiority becomes sometimes apparent. If one supposes that the other one caused this situation, one feels degraded. This position offers the comfortable position of not being responsible, but nevertheless most people strive at least for level playing field.
Bird’s-eye view From this point of view these people develop quickly the feeling of superiority. This aspect does not often come from others, who put someone up on the pedestal, but from one’s arrogance. The illusion of having things firmly under control does not mean that the respective person also feels responsible. The associated reputation often prevents that everybody can meet on common ground.
Agreeing to meet on level playing field results in mutual give and take.
Jointly assigning tasks Tasks are mainly not a matter of taking over, but rather of getting rid of them. Level playing field means in this case that the selection of an activity is done equally. The obligations are not simply delegated from the top and are not simply rejected from the bottom. This requires an objective approach for the assignment. On the one hand the wishes should be taken into account and on the other hand the insight should exist that certain things have to be done.
Authority to the acting person The right of doing something is more likely what people struggle for. Everyone wants to have the authority to select and to decide. Level playing field means here to find a reasonable power allocation. One approach is to provide people the authority that they need to fulfill their tasks.
Taking responsibility for the own acts The responsibility in turn is something that one would like to delegate, since the consequences are in the worst case the loss of the own position. On level playing field means that one achieves the appropriate distribution of the responsibility. The superordinate have the responsibility for the aspects that they set for subordinates. The subordinate takes the responsibility for its own doing, without being able to refer for example to a necessity to obey orders.
A helpful approach is the bundling of tasks, authority and responsibility in one hand. That way taking over a task includes the authority attached to it and the responsibility for the fulfillment. The task has thereby possible negative consequences in case of the failure. This motivates the person in charge to fulfill the task with a successful conclusion and then, of course, pocket the wages.
Bottom line: In principle the human right is valid, since we are all equal. However, this is not sufficient to reach level playing field in daily life. There are things that must be regulated due to an existing hierarchy. Level playing field is for no one free. Both sides must strive for it. Putting the tasks fittingly in one hand is a smart solution.
The assignment of job positions in a project is a crucial moment in the early phase of temporary, nonrecurring activities. Ideally the best employees are envisaged for the task. Although this is always a good approach, they are often not available. In this case, it is incumbent on the project managers to set up the best possible work group. They determine with the variety of the characters the fitness of the team. The project managers arrange the team based on the required roles and the attitudes of the available employees. The roles consist of the concrete tasks, authorities and the respective responsibility. Additionally, the existing knowledge and the abilities are compared with the necessities and respectively adjusted to each other. The team that exploits the plus of complementary project members will be the strongest.
Complementary project teams are set up in a way that as many as possible, supplementing activities and abilities are available. The following hints support the setting up of temporary, multilayered work teams.
Skillful distribution of the tasks The overview of the work packages consists of the planned tasks for guiding or executing core or support processes. They should describe briefly the entire activity without overlaps. Two to three sentences are sufficient to summarize the task comprehensibly without getting lost in unnecessary details. Double work becomes visible by comparing the activities. It will be dissolved through clear assignments to work packages.
Non-overlapping authority The rights that a task require, in order to timely and completely be attainable, should be eventually clearly assigned. This includes the right to accomplish certain activities as well as the authorities to give instructions to others, to define guidelines as well as to control the fulfillment of the tasks. The format for the authorization can be specified more or less bureaucratically.
Clear responsibilities The duties that exist for a task, not only pertain to the acts, but also to the outcomes and consequences of an activity. Since conflicts are minimized with clear decision procedures, the competencies should be assigned as clearly as possible. On the one hand it concerns the sole responsibility for the own activities, but also for the doing of the directly assigned employees. On the other hand joint responsibility exists for decisions that are made in the management team and which one must pay for as being part of the team. The more consistent the obligations are the fewer friction losses result from contradictory duties.
Additional abilities The abilities that are required for a role consist of the four areas business, method, social and system skills (see http://www.memecon.com/skill-model.html). Since the skills are naturally distributed with different degrees of detail on the entire field of knowledge, you reach through a smart combination to set up a team on the broadest possible base (see http://www.memecon.com/t-model-of-skills.html). The know-how should be evenly distributed on specialist knowledge and overarching know-how.
The project leaders need a well mixed team that covers as many requirements as possible. The remaining rest must take place via Learning on the job. A monotonous team, in which all employees have very similar characteristics, is less counterproductive, since the missing ones endanger the project thereby. If for example all employees fulfill detail tasks, the integrating task managers are missing, who overlook the overall view. Or in reverse, if all employees survey the project, there is nothing to integrate, since nobody produces something.
Bottom line: The project leaders already have a large influence on the positive outcome of the project with the selection of the project members. They can ensure that the necessary roles are completely available and covered without overlaps. Beyond that, they determine to what extent the employees complement each other by assigning different personalities to the project. If the project leaders do not create a positive tension in the team, it loses quickly their energy and resilience. With complementary teams the project leaders use the advantages of variety and the personal oppositeness for the sake of the project.
Guidance is one of the oldest roles in societies. And nevertheless executives are continuously looking for the right style of their role. Apart from the tasks and tools of leadership managers are concerned with the following questions.
How much involvement is possible?
How many rules are needed?
How do I distribute tasks, authorities and responsibilities?
How much loyalty do I need? How does it emerge?
How do I promote cooperation?
How to select executives?
How much leadership do we need at all?
Do new systemic concepts like holistic, autonomous units, interconnectedness, participation, and self-organization, pave the way for new, yet not recognizable styles of leadership? How does the future of leadership looks like?
Executives provide goals, organize, decide, evaluate and foster employees by using various tools (e.g. role descriptions, regular communication, performance reviews). They control with it their area, create orientation and take responsibility for the results (You find more about tasks and tools of leadership here: http://www.malik-management.com/en/malik-approach/malik-basic-models).
Without leadership, these aspects have to be developed in the team and consent has to be agreed. Positive examples of self-organizing groups are the agile teams in software development and other creative professions.
Nevertheless, new approaches imply also new answers to the questions of executives.
Involvement results from democratic forms of cooperation, like having a say and participation. These can also be established in connection with hierarchical structures. For a long time, autonomous, self-organizing teams are common practice in the context of bureaucratic structures, like projects, Centers of Competence or Production islands.
Regulations range from chaos to orderliness and from voluntary to mandatory. They are important tools, in order to clarify the desired behavior of the employees. These rules become meaningful with the appropriate level of detail that covers the tension between patronizing and autonomy. The joint agreement of basic guidelines in the governance minimizes the number of regulations.
Task, authority and responsibility (TAR) of a role should be consolidated under one roof. The best example of the distribution of TAR is the subsidiarity principle of the Vatican. It bundles decisions at the point of action. Only if this is no longer possible, the role is established on the next higher level.
The loyalty is an important element of leadership that cannot be directly created. On the one hand, it results from the authoritarian or charismatic attitudes of a leader. On the other hand, it evolves from the indirect stimulation of the commitment with personal, content-wise and formal commitment amplifiers.
Cooperation can be designed in various ways by using the new possibilities of networking and self-organization. The exchange of information can be realized with common intranet sites, discussion groups and blogs. The employees access via mobile PCs or smartphones their necessary data wherever and whenever. The employees meet independently of their whereabout within phone and video conferences.
The selection of executives has an influence on their acceptance. However, democratic approaches like the direct selection or recruiting of leaders by the employees, does not guarantee their effectiveness. Independently of the selection procedure, there will always be some employees, who accept the boss – or not. As you can also see in politics, democratic elections result in a distribution of 51% to 49% – i.e. half of the population does not want the winner.
At the latest, when the number of members of an organization exceeds the magic Dunbar number of 150, we need leadership and an adequate hierarchy. Small organizations, like start-ups, can survive for a certain time without formal structures. We should not to forget that these are also often driven autocratically by a founder.
Bottom line: Like an orchestra will never like to forgo the conductor, we cannot let go the integrating role of leadership in the future. Each undertaking needs the strategic alignment and concluding decisions by executives. The guidance becomes state-of-the-art by using the new possibilities for cooperation.