We all have things to do. Some of us have lists and lists of things to do. But that doesn’t mean everything on the list should be done by us, ourselves, alone. Before you take any action, slow down, look at your to-do list, and consider the following process for handing-over work to other people…
STEP ONE: Figure out what is for you and what is not… Ask 3 questions
What must I do myself?
- These are the things that it would be wrong to give to anyone-else. This is your core functional and personal business. You can’t hand-over a personal medical check-up to someone else and you shouldn’t be handing over strategic decision making either.
What could I give to someone else?
- Strictly speaking, this is everything left over after the first question. But its worth asking again as it gets you thinking about why you could hand it over. Sure, I like the grass to be cut in nice straight lines and sure I enjoy making that report, but I certainly could ask someone else to do these things.
What should I give to someone else?
- Depending on your vision of work, your answers may vary. If you are the “Tim Ferris type” you might think that everything that could be handed-over should be handed-over. If you are feeling guilty about workload, you might feel that you should be doing it all yourself. This question is about the reasons why handing-over work could be the best thing for you, for others and for the organisation. Of all the things you could hand-over to others, what things should you give away so you can focus on bringing more value to the organisation? What jobs will give someone else the opportunity to grow and bring more value to the organisation?
Possibly, as you tried to answer these questions, you were thinking: “But there is no-one else!” and so the answers went as follows: Everything, nothing, not-applicable.
To really use this process, you need to forget all of this during step one and just move forward. Imagine a perfect world where you were surrounded with opportunities to hand-over work. Now go back and answer the questions!
STEP TWO: For whatever tasks you have decided should be handed-over to someone else, define the competence required for the job
Now you have listed tasks/jobs that you ought to give to someone else, answer the following 3 questions for each of them:
- What knowledge is required to do this job?
- What skills are required to do this job?
- What attitude is required to do this job?
This step is all about defining requirements for the job. There may be other requirements like time, resources, specific environmental requirements… but right now, we are trying to imagine what competence someone would display in doing the job. Don’t worry yet about who does or does not have this knowledge, skill or attitude. Just name it.
STEP THREE: Think about the right people for the work
This is usually the point where people say again “But there is no-one!”. And telling you again to “imagine a perfect world” is too much to handle. So let’s get realistic about people with the following 5 questions. Answer them as they appear. Don’t get stuck on asking whether those people want to do the work or not…
- Of the people who work for you, who could be good for this job and why?
- Of the people in your immediate surroundings, team or department, who could be good for this job and why?
- Of people in any part of your organisation, who could be good for this and why?
- Of anyone else you know outside the organisation, who could be good for this and why? (yes, ANYone!)
- Of anyone anywhere currently unknown (!?) who could be good for this and why?
Reading these questions, some people will find them ridiculous. But taking the time to ANSWER them often provides new insight. You might realise that this thing should never have been on your to-do list in the first place. Or that its time to recruit. Or that you have a bigger network than you thought. Or that your lower-level tasks can actually be awesome motivating work for someone else…
STEP FOUR: Take care before you take action
If by now you are ready to hand-over work to someone, just take a moment to define the risks associated with that:
- How could this all go wrong? How likely is it that it will go wrong?
- What will be the impact of this work not being done well?
Be careful with these questions. If you are into controlling everything or worried about letting people down, its very easy at this point to just think: “The risk is too high – I’d better do it myself”. But by now you should have realised that doing everything yourself is not the best solution ..or simply not possible.
STEP FIVE: Hand-over the work in the right way
Now it is time to actually give this work to someone else, take one last moment to consider the following 3 questions:
- When is the right time to hand-over this work?
- What support do you need to help you get the support you need?
- How will you communicate the job hand-over?
- How will you follow up on the work?
If you have followed the 5-steps and actually answered all the questions above, you might have realised a few things about yourself, the people you work with or your organisation. You might even be ready to hand-over some work.
I’ve finished reading “Getting Things Done” by David Allen and I have to say it was great. I wanted to share the concept that really hit home the most..
As a perfection-lover, control-freak and high-achiever (in my mind, at least) I really like to get things RIGHT. So much, that these “things” spin around in my head a lot. Sometimes they even keep me up at night. But not any more, it seems…
Is this because I’ve got no problems anymore? Or am I now perfect?
No – I just followed David Allen’s advice: 2 simple questions…
But first, why do things spin around in my head?
According to Allen, the human brain has a kind of RAM (short-term memory ability) like a computer. The RAM holds whatever is needed in real-time in order to quickly access it for usage. It doesn’t have a concept of “un-real time” and only knows the here-and-now. And it is limited. So it gets full if you don’t treat it right. The aim, according to Allen, is to empty the RAM and this is only done by “closing open loop”.
How do you close open loops?
Its easy: Tell the RAM that its done. To achieve this, you need to get it satisfactorily out of your head and somewhere else.
My chosen somewhere else is my calendar/task-bar…
…but the key is that word “satisfactorily”. To achieve THAT, you have to be CONCRETE and GOAL-ORIENTED.
What do you mean concrete and goal-oriented?
For anything that comes your way, you won’t stop thinking about it until you are satisfied with the action-based-answer you have found. It doesn’t matter what the answer is, but it need to be clear, action-oriented and the first step to getting things done the way you want them done.
Everything else can wait, but not the first step…
Ask 2 questions to empty your RAM
I have been asking these 2 questions for about 2 weeks now and I can say that I really feel different. Check it out…
For anything that comes into your inbox (RAM…mind) ask:
- What would be a satisfactory outcome for me? (Not perfect, just “OK for me”)
- What is the next concrete action I need to take? (Not everything, just “next”)
That’s it! Whatever the answer is, write it down or put it in your calendar or on a list to do or give it someone else …. and then forget about it.
(Read the book for more details on strategies for the last part)
Thanks Mr Allen 🙂
Thanks for reading!
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