Tag Archives: size of role

Size of Task, Size of Role

“This timespan of intention,” Pablo continued, “turns out to be the missing element in measuring the size of a task, the size of a role and thinking about the capability of those we have employed to complete those tasks and play those roles.”

“Okay, but I intend to do a lot of things,” I countered. “Climb Mount Everest before I die, run a 4-minute mile. Just because I intend to do something does not define my capability to do it.”

“Indeed,” Pablo replied. “In addition to your imagination, you also have to observe your effectiveness in doing so. A manager can easily create a piece of paper that says 12 month goal calendar, with 12 months bolded at the top, but it does not make her effective in completing those goals. She also has to effectively execute.”

“So, we have the timespan of intention, and the timespan of effectiveness?” I asked.

“And, in management, we also have the timespan of discretion. Discretion is our authority to make a decision. Given a delegated task to complete, have we also been granted the authority to make necessary decisions? Within that delegated task, what is our timespan of discretion? Timespan is the metric for measuring accountability and authority and a team member’s effectiveness. Size of task, size of role, size of team member.”

The Best Measure of Performance

“We started this conversation trying to figure out the size of the role and the size of the person,” I clarified. “I think we have established that we can measure size of role with timespan. So how do we measure the size of person?”

“It’s a trick question,” Pablo immediately responded. “I don’t judge people, I only judge the work.”

“But, if we are trying to match the size of the role with the size of the person?”

My question was cut short. “We are misled when we try to judge the size of a person. People are too complicated, and besides, at the end of the day, does it matter? The only thing that matters, is the person effective in the work of the role? Think about it. We come up with all kinds of descriptors like foresight, agility, conscientiousness, tenacity, initiative, motivation, flexibility. We give these things a score. As if we can measure the absolute score of a human being? We say a person needs more of this and less of that. What does that have to do with work?”

“Let me change my question,” I recalibrated. “Instead of measuring the size of the person, how do we match the person with the complexity, with the level of work in the role?”

“Now, you have a case. In this discussion, the central question is, compared to what?” Pablo asserted.

“Okay, compared to what?” I parroted.

“You cannot measure the qualities of a person with some absolute number, because people change inside the context of the moment. Compared to what? Compared to the work in the role? I only care, can they do the work?” Pablo stopped, then picked up again. “The best measure of performance is performance.”

It’s a Manager’s Judgment

“How do you measure the size of the job?” Eduardo whispered, talking to himself, but making sure I knew he was thinking.

“We have to make a judgment call here,” I said. “We have to decide if Ron is big enough for the job. But to do that, we have to decide how big the job is.”

Eduardo had never thought about work this way. Measuring the size of a job was a little off-the-wall for him, but I could see in his face that it made sense.

“I am thinking, and your question seems logical, but I don’t have a clue how to really measure something like the size of a job.” Eduardo was still with me, but he was out of ideas.

“Think about when Ron was successful, when he was supervising the work to be done. What was the longest task that he had to accomplish, in terms of time?”

Eduardo was thinking. “Do you mean, that he had to hit his daily production targets?”

“In a sense, but I am guessing, if he was supervising, he was working toward a goal with a longer Time Span than daily production.”

“Well, yeah, I mean Ron was in charge of daily production, but some days were up and some days were off and some days, we shut down production for preventive maintenance. We looked at production on a monthly basis.”

“So every month, he had to hit the same number?”

“Well, no. Some months were up and some months were down. Ron had to work to the sales forecast. There was some seasonality to it, and some of the production orders took more than a month to cycle through. We really looked at things on a quarterly basis.”

“So, the Time Span for Ron’s role as a Supervisor was around three months?”

A light bulb went off in Eduardo’s head. “Time Span? Is Time Span the measure of how big the job is?”

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How Big is Job? How Big is the Person?

“I don’t know,” replied Eduardo. “I just hope he snaps out of it. Ron was our poster boy. For the past couple of weeks, he has seemed distant, removed from his crew, removed from the work.”

“You ruled out alcohol or drugs. Is it a matter of skill, something he can learn, or is it a matter of capability?” I repeated. “You can hope this will fix itself. How much patience do you have?”

“What do you mean?” Eduardo had a new sense of curiosity. “Ron has to snap out of it fast.”

“Tell me again, what has changed with Ron’s role?”

“Well, a year ago, he was supervising a couple of people, making sure the work got done. Now, he has to manage other people who are supervising that work.”

“Is the job bigger, now?” I asked.

Eduardo looked at me, puzzled. “Well, yeah. He has more people, I guess it is more complicated.”

“So the job is bigger now. How do you measure, how much bigger the job is?”

“Measure?” Eduardo had never been asked to measure the size of a job before. “I don’t know,” he continued. “It’s just more complicated, I guess.”

“So, how do you measure the complexity of Ron’s new job?”

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How to Measure the Size of the Role?

Warren was puzzled. “I talked to Tyler three times today. He has been having difficulty ever since I promoted him to manager.”

“So, at one point, he was effective?” I asked.

“Yes, he has been with the company for several years. He was a supervisor with six people on his team. Now, he is a manager of two supervisors with a total of eighteen people on his team.”

“What do you notice about him?” I pressed.

“It seems like he is too removed from the work. I ask him what is going on and he doesn’t have an answer. Says he has to go check. I mean, he gets the daily output reports, so he should know precisely what it happening, but it’s like he is disconnected.”

“Drugs? Alcohol?” I wanted to know.

“Don’t think so, Tyler is too conscientious for that,” Warren replied.

“What do you think the problem is?”

“It’s like the job is just too big for him.”

“So, how do you measure how big the job is?”

How to Look at the Size of the Role

“So, as you see me struggle with my new role as a manager, what do you see as my biggest challenge?” asked Joel.

“The biggest mistake most companies make is underestimating the level of work required for success in a role. The biggest mistake most managers make is underestimating the level of work required in a task,” I replied.

“And level of work can be measured by looking at the Time Span of the task?”

“And don’t be fooled.  For a manager, the task starts earlier and the completion time is much later than for a supervisor.  A supervisor makes sure the production gets done.  A manager creates the system in which production is done.  It’s a much bigger job, a higher level of work.”