Tips, Videos, Handouts

Everyone’s job is no one’s job

Want to make sure the job gets done? Don’t assign it to a lot of people!

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody. Hey, it’s Craig Freshley here. If you’re part of a group and someone assigns general responsibility for getting a specific task done, chances are no one will take responsibility for getting that task done. And the larger the group – the bigger the number of people who are responsible – the more likelihood that no one will take responsibility.

For example, the boss at a staff meeting says something like, “Hey, we’ve got to respond to that letter from Mrs. Johnson. Let’s get that done by next week.” Meeting adjourns, a week goes by, and nobody responds to Mrs. Johnson. She tries it again: “Hey people, we’ve got to respond to Mrs. Johnson by Wednesday.” Wednesday comes and goes. No response. The boss is desperate now; she’s a little bit angry, and she sends one of those flaming emails to all the staff, to even a wider circle of people than she mentioned in the staff meeting: “Hey everybody, let’s get a response going to Mrs. Johnson!” The response doesn’t happen.

We know what’s going on among all the staff people: every one of them is busy and because she sent it to so many people every one of them thinks, “Somebody else will take care of this, and besides, I’m not the best person to make this response, that’s more Cheryl’s expertise.” Or, “Bill is the one that had a conversation with Mrs. Johnson last month, he should be the one to do it.” It’s very easy for every one of the people on that email list to make excuses for not getting it done. And by the way, if and when the reprimand comes (“Hey, nobody got this done!”), I feel one twentieth of that reprimand if I’m in a group of twenty people.

It’s like with the office fridge in the break room. When we’re all responsible for keeping that fridge clean, chances are no one will be responsible.

So what’s the take-away from this? Name specific responsibilities. If you’re the manager and the office fridge is under your jurisdiction, set up a schedule, have some accountability, identify specific responsibilities. The letter that needs to be replied to? Name somebody or call for a volunteer. Tasks without specific names next to them often don’t get done.

Now I’m all for collaboration, you know, maybe the fridge should be a group effort, or maybe writing that letter to Mrs. Johnson should be a group effort. Okay, fine, but name a lead responsibility, name a single person who I as the boss can go to a week from now and say, “Hey, did you get that letter written?” and if they didn’t, “What help do you need writing it? What are the barriers?” At least I’ve got someone to work with on making the task happen.

Alright, that’s today’s video tip for y’all. Thanks for listening, and I hope you help your group make good decisions.

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