Schlagwort-Archive: Task

The ability to apply resources

There was a time when employees were cogs in a big machine. They had a fixed position in the clockwork company, which could be assumed without much preparation. Over time, one got to know the environment, broadened its knowledge, and to eventually rise to a responsible position with a better understanding of the big picture.
In the meantime, these machines have evolved into organisms that no longer consist of wheels and axles rigidly attached to one place, but of units that continuously adapt to changing customer needs, the constant worldwide coming and going of competitors and new technologies (e.g. digitalization and automation).

In this environment, managers need new skills. They are no longer mechanics, who monitor and readjust employees. Carrot and stick are replaced by purpose and personal perspective – no longer either … or, but as well … as. It enables employees to realize their potential and at the same time create added value for the company. Let’s look at some changes.

  • Assign tasks instead of passing them over
    Up to now, tasks, competence and responsibility have been delegated from managers to employees. These transfers implied the giving of something that a leader does, has or must fulfill. This resulted in managers hiring more and more of the same, especially what they know, which did not expand the group’s capabilities.
    However, it is no longer a matter of gathering a flock of like-minded people with identical skills, but rather of building know-how as far as possible that creates many different opportunities. The old tasks of managers are dissolving in favor of the nowadays necessary support – harmonizing instead of isolating; long-term instead of short-term; situation-related instead of bureaucratic; serving instead of controlling; open instead of orderly; effective instead of efficient; confident instead of fearful; securing instead of unsettling …
  • Y instead of X
    The two human images by McGregor have been haunting companies for decades: Theory X assumes that people are lazy by nature and need to be motivated from the outside; theory Y assumes that employees are intrinsically ambitious and committed and motivate themselves. Both theories lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the respective human image is confirmed, then it solidifies and leads to more of the same. In theory X, poor performance confirms the negative human image that leads to more stringent control. In theory Y, the positive image is solidified that leads to more and more freedom, which is willingly filled by the employees.
    The adherents of theory X will continue to fail, as they demotivate their people to such an extent that potential is nipped in the bud. The bosses of theory Y are better positioned. So long as they keep control on themselves and resist any impulse to intervene, this group is continuously approaching the possible.
  • Decide instead of overstretching
    The commercial necessities arise detached from each other. There is no natural order or other indications for prioritization. The managers have no choice but to prioritize the tasks and live with the fact that some cannot be fulfilled. The only backdoor is to use people, who lack the appropriate skills, but who are currently available. This results in follow-up work and conflicts that must be dealt with despite the insufficient capacities. This creates even more superfluous tasks.
    The ability to make the best use of the resources includes the dexterity not to overload your available resources by refusing from the start too much workload and saying clearly No. The aim is not to deliver half-assed but agreed results.
  • Let go instead of micromanaging
    A difficulty that is also shown by the X theory managers is the inner compulsion to micromanage. Micromanagers distribute tasks, monitor progress at short intervals and continually correct the activities of employees. With the appropriate IT-network, it is nowadays possible to ask for the progress by e-mail at any time or even check the half-finished intermediate statuses on the shared drives. The consequences are long e-mails with correction requests. They undermine the employees’ schedule and limits their room for maneuver. In the short- to mid-term, employees will stop their work enthusiasm and only fulfill the instructions of their superiors. The responsibility for the result is no longer with the employee, but with the micromanager.
    This is certainly the most common form of incompetence in leadership. In doing so, the manager harms itself, the customer and the employee.

Bottom line: In VUCA times, the market, customers and tasks move faster than they can be controlled with traditional methods. The country needs new leaders: leaders who hire people, who can do more than they can do themselves; proponents of Theory Y, who trust their employees; bosses, who know that the sum of the total is more than them; but above all, leaders who DO NOT micromanage. The right attitude supports the ambition of the employees and demands self-organized top performance. Capable managers know how to use their resources.

The inevitable look at activities

Before work was divided into ever smaller steps that could be learned in a very short time, most activities were in one hand. Craftsmen had learned over the years all the skills to manufacture something from A to Z – and developed the finishing touches incessantly. The economic outcome was determined by their abilities. Until today, craftsmen are responsible for their creations and have undisputedly the right to make any decisions from research to sales. In contrast, during industrialization, unprepared agricultural workers were introduced to the simple “machine-like” execution that could be performed without understanding the overall context – vividly embodied by Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times. At that time, the division of tasks, authority and responsibility (TAR) as well as the passing on of the role elements to different hierarchical shoulders began. That way, the task carrier has neither the competence nor the responsibility for its results. The person in charge is authorized, but does nothing and has almost no responsibility. The person in charge stands for the result without contributing or being allowed to practically contribute anything. The end of this unsatisfactory impasse is reached.

Due to the accelerated progress in the economy, after more than two hundred years, companies need to radically renew their outdated look at roles. However, it is naive to think that TAR becomes obsolete in the new world of work. Even though the long-term rigid job descriptions are a thing of the past, the dynamic, ever-changing roles still require a form in order to understand what others are doing.

  • Knowing and mastering the T
    The task describes the activities of a role – executing and leading, e.g. sending orders; creating transparency. In order to understand what to do, parties concerned need to know the elements of a task and being able to fulfill them. It is not enough to just vaguely title the task and to ask defining its own procedures. For the representatives of the company, no matter how many there will be in the future, the remaining task is to create a framework for ensuring the interplay of all. As long as the task carriers do not know and are not able to do their tasks, they will remain in natural resistance.
  • Being authorized for the A
    The competence describes the rights of a role. Employees must be empowered to perform a task – to do something; to decide something. Where possible, powers should be granted in such a way that all parties understand what they are in for and where the limits of their competence are. This means shifting power away from the former hierarchies towards the point of action, to the executors. If those affected are not allowed to do, what they are supposed to, they will remain in natural resistance.
  • Wanting the R
    Responsibility describes the duty to be accountable for actions, results and consequences that arise in relation to the deliverable. On the one hand, this can be the personal responsibility for one’s own actions, but also for the actions of the assigned employees. At the same time, one is part of a management team and thus shares responsibility for the decisions of the colleagues, which are usually confirmed in the appropriate committees. The people concerned must want to take responsibility; otherwise they will remain in natural resistance.
  • TAR in one hand
    Whereas in the machine age TAR was distributed to different levels, the acceleration of the business requires the re-bundling at the point of action, since the old communication and instruction paths take too long. For this reason TAR should have been for a long time in one hand. As long as this does not happen, New Work is not feasible, as all participants, the bosses AND the employees cannot fulfil their own agenda and therefore remain in natural resistance.

On closer inspection, it will be clear to those, who have understood the signs of time that the old structures no longer fit into the present time. At the latest, when the business management is in the hands of the executors, elaborate and expensive hierarchies have lost their raison d’être. The liberated companies (see: Liberated Company) have since a long time found ways to break up the traditional structures and become better – from ordering to inspiring, from manager to leader; from the short leash to the long one; from external to self-control.

Bottom line: Not the resolution of the roles, but their flexibilization makes the difference. Empowerment, which, with full awareness and of one’s own accord, strives for fundamental changes in cooperation, ensures that employees know and are able to carry out their tasks, have few limitations and are prepared to assume the agreed responsibility. However, this will only work, if the old structures are dissolved and the remaining ones are rethought. In return, it will be necessary to describe the tasks, authority and responsibility, i.e. roles. These descriptions are no longer bureaucratic instruments, but a means of exchanging standpoints. They will not last as long as the old job descriptions, but will, if necessary, provide clarity as to who is responsible for what at a given time – for others and for oneself. A well-formulated view of the activities is inevitable in order to coordinate, to recognize redundancy of effort, to prevent conflicting efforts and to have an efficient company in the long run.