The Mechanics of Tasking 3/5 — Good tasks start with Why

August 29, 2007 at 8:22 am 1 comment

Good tasks begin, and end, with ‘Why’

The first question we learn is “Why?” and regardless of how long we live, we’ll never stray far from asking it. From cradle to grave it’s the question that drives us forward. It’s how we determine how the world works, our place in it, the importance of everything around us, how things relate to each other and even the meaning of life – if any. It’s no less important in the task of delegating work.

There’s a line of thought that argues employees don’t need reasons, they just need direction. That a manager’s role is not to explain the importance of a task – just to assign it. In my experience, both as the giver and taker of work, we need both reason and direction. If we’re expected to show any degree of initiative, then knowing the ‘whys’ of any task is crucial.

Part of delegating a task requires a complete description of what needs doing, and an agreed upon time for when we’ll get it done. Then, if managed correctly, the manager steps out of the picture until the next agreed upon meeting. That meeting might be the final delivery of the task, or it might be a checkpoint meeting, where progress and status of the task are discussed. Checkpoint meetings are defined by dates/times and expected deliverables.

It’s during the crucial time when the manager has left, and the employee is working on their own, that the ‘why’ of the task is all important.

All tasks are not created equal, some are more important than others, and only one task can occupy the exalted postion of ‘top priority’. Knowing the ‘whys’ of a task allows the employee to prioritize their workload. Without understanding the reasons for doing a task, all tasks are of the same value, the same importance, and run the same risks of delay and failure.

A simple way for a manager to explain the ‘whys’ of a task is to explain the upstream consequences if the task isn’t delivered on the promised date, or if the quality of the product falls below a well defined level. The importance of a task is directly proportional to the consequences of it not being completed.

Enjoy the day


Entry filed under: Delegating, Management, Managing.

The Mechanics of Tasking 2/5 — My task! Not Yours! The Top 7 Reasons Projects Fail

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Ray Grady  |  October 7, 2010 at 8:28 am

    How does “start with why” have a profound effect on leadership?


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