Easy as Pie: How to Pass the Fork and Share Projects

by Carrie (Adams) Connors

On Monday Bill was asked by the CEO, Karen, to build a draft of a project plan by Friday. By Thursday night very little had been done.

What actually happened? 

On Monday Bill was asked by the CEO, Karen, to build a draft of a project plan by Friday. Bill asks Carolyn to provide operations feedback. Bill asks Lillian to provide finance feedback. With that feedback Joann can turn the draft into the proper format. Carolyn is annoyed at the timing. She is swamped and has to finish the required month end accounting so she delegates to William who is new and still learning all the systems and has required HR training as part of his on-boarding process. He doesn’t know that Lillian needs to hear from him first so he’s waiting to get her content first.  Lillian, however, actually needs to have William’s feedback first before she can estimate the operations efforts. That’s how they’ve always done their project so she assumes he already knows that. Joann can’t turn the draft into the proper format until William and Lillian complete their pieces so she simply waits… by Thursday evening very little had been done.

What does the CEO Karen care about?

By Thursday night very little had been done.

This is what happens when we just eat our own pie. 

Most likely, these aren’t inherently lazy or bad associates.  They don’t particularly care about the pieces of the project that they don’t own or where they don’t feel they have ownership – and those are two different obligations. The are only seeing their own priorities and their own impact zones. Additionally, they lack the context, experience, reporting structure, and priorities to see the other side of the equation where our ownership becomes shared ownership and a singular task becomes a shared responsibility.

Now, I’m certainly not suggesting that employees abandon priorities or start doing other people’s work. When you effectively manage a team you must partition out the roles and responsibilities so that the whole effort is executed in manageable parts. You align the right person with the right role so that their effectiveness is maximized. That means they are focusing on their work and their piece most of the time. That focus means that there are going to be gaps in knowledge and awareness regarding co-workers efforts, circumstances, deadlines, priorities when it comes time for the proverbial pie forks to cross. It is in those times as leaders that we (and Bill in this case) manage those gaps and we create some transparency, some shared responsibility and collaboration. We have to manage the current priorities against the new swirl.

To prioritize properly, we must define not only the WHAT must be done by WHEN… but the WHY. Why does it matter in the grand scheme and why does it matter to William, Lillian, Joann and not just Bill when they have other efforts already on their desk? Why do they want a slice of this?

When we communicate that collective why, it becomes much easier to pass the fork and take a bite.

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