Delegation: Let’s keep it simple.
- Find someone who will accept responsibility for the desired outcome.
- Explain that you do not have the time and/or expertise to design the solution.
- Ask the person to propose an approach which you have some confidence (not certainty) will succeed with the resources agreed to, e.g., hours, budget, tools, deadline, etc.
- Don’t abdicate, delegate: follow-up frequently on progress and impediments to show that you still value the outcome, perhaps using something like my progress report format.
“Give as few orders as possible,” his father Duke Leto had told him… once… long ago. “Once you’ve given orders on a subject, you must always give orders on that subject.”
—Dune by Frank Herbert
p. 628 Penguin Publishing Group
Which tasks should you delegate? See this post, 3 Ds of Delegation
Here is a simple habit that can boost productivity in your organization. One client credits this technique for an 18% increase in annual revenue with a reduced headcount. It takes practice but quickly becomes second nature.
I brought this method into the workplace from my flight training. Pilots and air traffic controllers (ATC) must communicate precisely and briefly while also executing specialized tasks. Misunderstandings in aircraft can have horrible consequences, so specific communication techniques are required. Many of the most serious accidents are caused by failure to follow these practices, including the 1977’s Tenerife Airport Disaster, commercial aviation’s deadliest incident.
Talk may be cheap but miscommunication is costly.
Have you ever listened to the (more…)
Too many jobs are perfectly constructed to elicit inhumane behavior. Read my book to learn how it got this way.
The most fundamental lesson of our study:
Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process.
Even when asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.
—Professor Stanley Milgram, PhD
Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View
Perennial Classics 2009 p. 6.
Professor Milgram was responsible for two psychological studies that became well-known by the general public while having almost no positive influence on government or corporate structures, the “administer a painful shock” compliance experiment and the “Small World” six degrees of separation demonstration.
We accept our responsibilities as a corporate citizen in community, national and world affairs; we serve our interests best when we serve the public interest. . . . We acknowledge our obligation as a business institution to help improve the quality of the society we are part of. We want to be in the forefront of those companies which are working to make the world a better place.
— Thomas J. Watson, Jr., 1969
President of IBM
The use of the cloak of social responsibility, and the nonsense spoken in its name by influential and prestigious businessmen, does clearly harm the foundations of a free society. . . . there is one and only one social responsibility of business — to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.
— Milton Friedman, 1970
Founder of the “Chicago school of economics” 
See more in Chapter 8 of Tony Mayo’s novel, Crimes of Cunning: A comedy of personal and political transformation in the deteriorating American workplace.
 In this article he quoted himself, “there is one and only one … without deception or fraud.” from Capitalism and Freedom: Fortieth Anniversary Edition Paperback – Deluxe Edition (University of Chicago Press, 2002), p. 133. (First published in 1962.)
Also, “[A] corporate executive is an employe [sic] of the owners of the business. He has direct responsibility to his employers. That responsibility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible. . . . The whole justification for permitting the corporate executive to be selected by the stockholders is that the executive is an agent serving the interests of his principal.”
–Milton Friedman, “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits,” The New York Times Magazine (Sept. 13, 1970), p. 32-33, 122-124.
The “prison experiments” by psychologist Philip Zimbardo show “that ethical problems in organizations originate not with “a few bad apples” but with the ‘barrel makers’—the leaders who, wittingly or not, create and maintain the systems in which participants are encouraged to do wrong.”
–Warren Bennis &
James O’Toole in
Harvard Business Review
Chapter One is below.
Read the Author’s Preface by clicking here.
I reminded myself that we were in a well-lit office, not a dark alley. No need to get aggressive yet. I relaxed my jaw and tried to keep the fear out of my voice as I replied, “If you pull my people off your project, there’s no way you’ll meet the delivery date.”
My client looked at me blandly, as if he had delivered a weather forecast. In fact, he had devastated my sales forecast. Five fewer of my consultants billing their time to this client meant there was no way I would meet quota to earn my bonus. I needed him to engage with me. I forced a response with a direct question that was also a threat. “Did Juan approve this staffing cut?”
“Why would I check with Juan?” asked the Director of Information Systems Development (ISD) for Billing Systems. He ran his finger down a page of the MCI internal directory as he spoke, “Nobody (more…)
Of all the management tools I recommend, one of the most effective is both very simple and very unlikely to be consistently employed—if it is used at all: the written progress report, completed on a consistent schedule.
The power of progress reports to promote results and reduce anxiety is demonstrated daily, on matters titanic and trivial. The U. S. Constitution requires that the President “from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union.” Public companies are required by law to present results to shareholders, at fixed intervals and in specific formats. Schools send regular reports to parents, our GPS tells where we are, and UPS sends a text when a package arrives.
Still, managers and employees resist implementing this simple process.
Who cares about why? Just grow up and start doing a progress report. Declare your goals. Confront your results. Adjust to living in reality. Enjoy the benefits of clarity while the less disciplined fail and fail in a fog of vague expectations and inchoate regrets.
Before I explain how to format and prepare a good progress report, let’s deal with some common excuses questions.
Q: I don’t have a boss.
A: If you have (more…)
Crimes of Cunning
On Sale Now!
A comedy of personal and political transformation in the deteriorating American workplace.
Click here to see it on Amazon.com
Or, here for Barnes & Noble
Fast-paced, funny, and smart. This novel puts you into the world of a young MBA striving to succeed at a famous high-tech company. Brash and confident yet comically inept, Tony clashes with colleagues, clients, and even his biggest supporters. He fires his most loyal employee, derails the career of his only friend, and nearly destroys his young marriage before transforming from chilly corporate collaborator to empathetic executive coach. Laugh and learn as his clients turn criminal, corporations collapse, and compassion triumphs.
It should be as much the aim of those who seek for social-betterment to rid the business world of crimes of cunning as to rid the entire body politic of crimes of violence.
–Theodore Roosevelt, 1901
A veteran executive coach draws on his years inside Arthur Andersen, Wall Street, and MCI to share a moving story that explains why your 401k shrank, your house is underwater, and your job stinks. The comedy and conflict illustrate management methods and personal practices that can improve your career and deepen your personal relationships.
Click here to read a free sample.