“You said that if the manager is held accountable for the output of the team, the manager might take better care in selection?” I asked.
Pablo nodded. “It does no good to bring someone on board without the capability for the work, only to later blame that person for underperformance.”
“If that is the case,” I picked up the unspoken question, “then why do managers struggle finding the right fit for the role.”
“They struggle,” Pablo replied, “because they rarely sit down and figure out the work. Most managers see work as a series of task assignments. Do this, do that. No more. Following the task assignment, the manager often asks, ‘So, do you know what to do?'”
“You see, it slips by so easily. That question barely begs understanding. The question from the manager should more properly be, ‘In completing this task assignment, what decisions will you have to make? What problems will you have to solve?’ Most managers miss that completely.”
“But, if the team member knows what to do, what decisions are left?”
“See, even you, my most aware friend, have overlooked discretion built into the work. There is always appropriate decision making at every level of work. Take a fork lift driver, and a pallet to be moved from point A to point B,” Pablo laid out.
“I got it.”
“Do you?” Pablo pushed back. “What decisions are to be made by the forklift driver?”
“It’s obvious,” I said. “Am I moving the right pallet to where it needs to be placed?”
“You’re right, that is the obvious question,” Pablo started. “And, let’s look at some other questions, any one of which could create failure.
- How heavy is the pallet?
- Is the pallet properly balanced?
- Is my forklift rated to handle the weight of the load?
- Will the size of the pallet, plus a safety buffer, clear the designated pathway to location B?
- Are there unanticipated obstacles that might temporarily be blocking the pathway?
- Are there any over height restrictions to the movement?
- Will this move require flag walkers during movement?
- Is the forklift in operating order?
- Are all safety signals, warning lights and sounds operating?
- Am I wearing appropriate PPE during the move?
- Is the designated point B a permanent location within a specified perimeter? Or a temporary staging area that must be flagged for safety?”
“Okay, okay,” I laughed. “I get it.”
“Most managers rarely sit down and figure it out,” Pablo was adamant. “What’s the work? What decisions have to be made? What problems have to be solved?”