Schlagwort-Archive: Responsibility

Unnecessary loss of friction in the process

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,
  • automated tasks
  • minimized time and costs,
  • increased quality,
  • 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.

Level playing field is for no one free

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 plus of complementary project members

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 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 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.

The future of leadership

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.

  1. How much involvement is possible?
  2. How many rules are needed?
  3. How do I distribute tasks, authorities and responsibilities?
  4. How much loyalty do I need? How does it emerge?
  5. How do I promote cooperation?
  6. How to select executives?
  7. 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:
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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Penniless managers are worth nothing

After the ghost of planned economy collapsed, large-scale enterprises evolve to huge centralistic administrative bodies. After years of lean management, culture, hierarchies rigidify, which undermine their intended claim for a flat structure with the subordination of equal levels. The return to functional organizations covers the inability to base the organization on processes. The cross charging of deliverables create an internal market in which specific amounts are negotiated and paid with the transfer of budgets – wooden nickels from the left to the right pocket. The degree of bureaucratization can be seen via the necessary reports and guidelines. More and more employees serve an overhead of project, planning and budget reports. At the same time, the guidelines evolve to one entanglement of regulations that cannot be conveyed or obeyed anymore. The crucial error is however the new approach to realize savings, namely to decide right at the top any outward cash flow. Yet it is forgotten that leaders are worth nothing without financial means.


What do doers need in order to fulfill their tasks?

  • Apart from the personal characteristics that constitute leaders, like integrity, decisiveness and customer focus, the following tasks should be fulfilled: Self-management, conception, coordination, communication and cooperation.
  • The tasks, authority and responsibility specify the scope of action. The tasks describe the activities that are to be mastered. The authority determines the decision, directive and action powers. The responsibility obligates the superior on the decided approach and the goals. On this basis the personal evaluation and remuneration are done.
  • The allocation of a cost center and the equipment with sufficient budget is an important part of the authority. Like the fuel tank of a car, the available funds limit the scope that a decision maker can cover. Penniless leaders have actually no chance to contribute value-adding results.
  • Bosses as entrepreneurs in the enterprise need a comprehensible business model. Within the business idea, the target audiences, the deliverable portfolio and the clearly outlined scopes are specified.
  • An important function of the executive is the indication towards a positive future and the measures for reaching it. The strategy should provide the employees a seizable framework for the realization.

As soon as these components are missing, the leaders are worth nothing and it remains noting else than eliminating these positions.

Bottom line: The leadership tasks require a large spectrum of abilities, in order to be able to perform a task meaningfully. However, as soon as the leader is guided on a short leash, without budget, even the best characteristics go pop, because penniless managers are worth anything.

You must be able to afford decentralized bureaucracy

As soon as you give Mr. Hammer a hammer, everything looks like a nail. This curse began with the division of labor. This creates in parallel Screwdrivers, Sawyers, Grinders, Painters, Welders, and Gluers etc. Everybody is brim-fill of energy and designs the environment depending on its specialty. In a similar way, administrative or better bureaucratic functions evolve in the enterprises and the public administration. All undertake dedicated their tasks and produce one administrative act after the other. How can you stop this fate?

Komplexes Netz

Let us consider as an example a group company that has its headquarters somewhere in the world. In different regions are local headquarters that have a similar structure and tasks. The Headquarter (HQ) controls the local headquarters (LHQ) that control the locations. All have staff positions that develop eagerly strategies, target values and guidelines – everyone, of course, for its area of responsibility. The result is a flood of regulations that develops redundantly, overlaps and often contradicts. Due to ever more hierarchical levels, this effect multiplies.

The following measures might defuse this development.

  1. Clear, non-overlapping distribution of tasks, authorities and responsibilities
    Everyadministration gets an aligned bundle of tasks, clear authorities and obligations. This avoids duplication of work, creates fewer regulations and a smaller variety of interpretations. The related units streamline themselves.
  2. Bundling of roles at the highest level
    The higher regulations are positioned in the hierarchy, the more uniform and the more economical become the results. This is particularly valid for basic guidelines, like e.g. the reporting system, performance reviews, or travel guidelines.
  3. Defined escalation and decision procedures
    Most of the friction losses result from unclear or competitive decisions. The clear, for all available descriptions of the decision levels, procedures and related committees enables all to obey the official channels.
  4. Defined reprisals in case of infringement
    Rules that are not connected with painful punishments, defuse the requirements. An understandable catalogue of implications for offenses increases the probability of compliance.

Bottom line: In each organization, no matter how large or distributed around the world, bureaucratization can be reduced by re-organizing the competencies. For this purpose redundancy-free roles are needed that are as high as possible established, with clear official channels and are provided with valid sanctions.

P.S.: The example of the European Union shows the same tendency. As long as the European Union can afford the luxury of national right in competition to the European right, enormous amounts of tax funds are wasted on unnecessary administration – quite apart from the bureaucratic hurdles between the 28 member states. The non-overlapping distribution of tasks, the establishment of the regulating agencies on the highest level, clear official channels for each European Union-citizen and for all a binding, uniform juridical system would make bureaucratic operational sequences easier. The bundling of national tasks within the European Union could save ten percent of the national bureaucracies.