Delegate or Do? That is the Question.

overworked bigAs a manager, you may often find yourself wondering which tasks you should be focused on and which you should delegate. Should you give general direction and let your subordinates sweat the small stuff? Should you demonstrate your servant leadership by being the first to get your hands dirty? What if you had a clear filter through which to analyze those decisions?

Many years ago, I learned a goal setting and action strategy that uses the acronym MOST and I’ve been using it ever since. I’ve found this to be a great system to begin with a vision and drill all the way down to related actions. Recently, viewing MOST from a new angle made it even more useful. But if this is your first exposure, the basics of MOST are as follows:

Mission – Where the organization is headed

Objectives – The overarching goals to achieve the mission

Strategies – Specific options for moving forward toward achieving the objectives.

Tactics – Specific actions taken to achieve the strategy.

MOST2Here’s the breakthrough…
In a recent conversation, my colleague Dave White shared with me how he was using MOST to analyze his role in the company. He explained to me that as a director he strives to spend the majority of his time developing strategy, relying on me as his executive to provide the objectives and his team of subordinates to follow through on the tactics. I thought this was brilliant!

The more I thought about this simple explanation, the more sense it made to me. Here’s how it works at CollegePlus:

Mission – Where the organization is headed (Board and Execs)

Objectives – The overarching goals to achieve the mission (Executives)

Strategies – Specific options for moving forward toward achieving the objectives. (Executives and Directors)

Tactics – Specific actions taken to achieve the strategy. (Managers and Individual Contributors)

An Executive’s responsibility is to achieve the mission by setting objectives and strategy. A manager’s responsibility is to understand the mission, objectives, and the strategy, and assign and oversee the tactics.

Of course this is painting with broad strokes. There are times when executives have to get tactical and when managers might be invited to help set strategy, but in general terms these categories hold true, at least in our company.

A few points worth noting:

  • All of these layers are critically important and if even one is missing or lagging, none of the others work very well.
  • The higher up the sequence the missing layer, the more impactful it is.
  • If I as an executive am spending a large portion of my time on tactics, it isn’t called servant leadership, it’s called misusing my time. Everyone in the organization is relying on me to set the objectives and strategy. If I’m not doing that, I am letting them down.
  • Of course there are times when I’ll get tactical and spend time on the front lines to better understand an issue or to simply get a job done, but only if it’s purposeful.
  • If I am swamped and overwhelmed, am I spending too much time in a layer that doesn’t match my role?
  • If I am spending too much time upstream, it is called overreaching.
  • If I am spending too much time in layers too far downstream, it is called micromanagement.

Does this help you think more clearly about your role? I’d be interested in your comments below.

RPY

 

Photo credit: net_efekt / iW / CC BY-NC

 

3 thoughts on “Delegate or Do? That is the Question.

  1. It’s easy to see how important communication is to making this system work. Moving downwards, a break in communication from one level to another can only result in frustration and wasted resources. Less obviously, there is a similar need to ensure an open avenue of communication from lower levels to upper ones. For instance, while your objectives should be guided by the mission, they should be developed with a strong understanding of the best strategies on the table. The less upward communication that happens, the less your organization will be remain agile and make the best possible moves.

  2. “An Executive’s responsibility is to achieve the mission by setting objectives and strategy. A manager’s responsibility is to understand the mission, objectives, and the strategy, and assign and oversee the tactics.” I thought this was an excellent explanation of the two responsibilities. By understanding your role and what is expected of those above you and beneath, one can better think through “delegating” or “doing.” Thanks for sharing!

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