Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Getting work done

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."

George S. Patton (1885 - 1945)

Valid quote. But, it has to be used with a lot of caution unless you do not have to get anything done within limited time and budget. This quote has to be applied to different people with different levels of moderation. For people who you are certain that far better than you in all respects, don't even waste your time telling them how to do what you want to get done. You may antagonize them and that may reduce the quality of their output. If you have observed someone delivering quality goods, just tell them what to do and come back at the time given by them. Chances are your stuff is ready to go. Even if you strongly feel to tell such brilliant people how to do things, hold it back. Such people appreciate feedback only when they know they need it. Unsolicited feedback normally does not go well with most of the people.

For your bulldozers (i.e. most resourceful people), you just need to give a broad outline of how they may approach the job. Although bulldozer will succeed in moving a mountain regardless of how it approaches, there may be certain effective ways to get a thing done which will increase the effectiveness of bulldozers. Remember your most resourceful people normally tend to be very efficient and not necessarily very effective. You need to help them to be effective by offering timely hints and advice on what may be a good idea to get something done. Efficiency = doing things right. Effectiveness = doing right things.

Bottom rung people- just give them step by step instructions and get the work done. Ample supervision is necessary. As long as people are producing good quality work it does not matter even if you have to give them detailed instructions. It is very likely that people will move to the next rung if you mentor them well. If they are not moving to the next rung, it may indicate their unwillingness to learn and improve. Then you may have some serious decisions to make. If a person who requires detailed instructions is delivering good quality, no need to worry. They will move up. If the output is shoddy despite detailed instructions, it is a big red flag. Just because someone requires detailed instructions does not make them a poor performer. It may make them an average performer. But imagine the leverage you can get by having some such people. These people are a bang for the buck when you have right mentors to train them and tune them. They cost at least 20-30% less than stellar performers. They are good. They work hard. They are thankful. For every good mentor you have, you can make some 4-5 such people really productive and get the work done at a fraction of cost. Economics may seem little fuzzy but think thru it and you will get it. Having all "A" players is going to be disaster in several ways. First of all it is going to cost hell more. Top performers do not want to do mundane jobs. Good amount of work in commercial endeavors is mundane but important. People costing 30% less normally do not mind such work as they are good at whatever you ask them to do once you are willing to tell them what to do. Balance is important in a team like it is in everything.

Following the quote blindly is a sure way to screw things up.


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