Keep in mind that if you take an exceptional person and give them 10 things to do, you may find that little is accomplished. Give an exceptional person a few focused items to complete with a clearly expressed deadline, and you are likely to find it all gets completed. Many companies have organizational charts, but how many have a well-defined responsibility matrix?
The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.
~ John F. Kennedy
The Full Scoop
Originally published through the opens in a new windowTampa Bay Business Journal Leadership Trust
It has been said that a goal without a deadline is no more than a dream. It has also been noted that if you want to get something done, you must prioritize and eliminate the unessential. If your team has a desire to improve in a given area, you have to do much more than simply establish a goal; you must make intentional changes in behavior while keeping your end goal in focus. Otherwise, you will never reach the outcomes you seek and will fall far short of your desired summit.
Much has been written about deliberate practice — the idea of intentionally focusing on and improving in a specific area. If your goal is to get into better shape, simply showing up to the gym and experimenting with different equipment will probably help a little, but you will likely reach a plateau in your continuous improvement. Athletes who employ deliberate practice do not necessarily work more hours than others, but they are more deliberate in what they do during those hours. Deliberate athletes do not just show up to the gym; they focus on routines, muscle groups and tracking and measuring their progress.
Many years ago, prior to running our IT company, I was employed by an organization with a variety of complex technology needs. While working on a series of IT projects, we noticed a recurring trend: The business would come up with enhancement requests on a regular basis. Those would be added to an ever-growing issue list, and while the list would be reviewed and discussed weekly, it was a struggle to work on improving the broader system or meeting project deadlines for strategic initiatives because they were not the daily focus.
There were at times so many requests and ideas being presented that you would forget about the less squeaky requests in favor of more urgent system issues — or as I liked to call them, the fires of the week. Firm deadlines and goals for completion were rarely made because there was too much being juggled and brought to the table. What happened instead was more of a game of whack-a-mole. Urgent requests seemed to fill the void in between project meetings, and delays were not uncommon. Although there was a comprehensive list of issues and requests, there was also a lack of focus and prioritization. There was no real captain at the helm. Does this sound like a place you have worked before? Does it sound like where you work now?
In my current business, our IT help desk receives countless requests on a consistent basis. The requests tend to be urgent in nature — and to those submitting them, especially important. The urgency of a given issue and its ultimate importance is very much dependent on the perspective and opinions of the person submitting the request. Technicians naturally want to please their constituents, and priority and strategic initiatives can fall to the wayside if you aren’t careful. There is a difference between a network outage and a question on a bill, or an offline mission-critical server and a request for a meeting to discuss a new project. To appropriately prioritize, a role must be defined to help direct traffic and ensure everyone stays in their lane.
Clear roles and responsibilities are crucial to an organization. Many companies have organizational charts, but how many have a well-defined responsibility matrix? More important than knowing who to speak with to request time off is understanding who will take care of a request and who will help to moderate and communicate decisions between your various stakeholders. To ensure that expectations are clear, it is critical to deliberately focus on ways to define roles and responsibilities that help keep employees on track and focused on strategic priorities and goals. You must strive to separate roles so that key client needs can be met by the appropriate person without distracting that individual from their ultimate objective within the organization.
Keep in mind that if you take an exceptional person and give them 10 things to do, you may find that little is accomplished. Give an exceptional person a few focused items to complete with a clearly expressed deadline, and you are likely to find it all gets completed. Making the strategic goals of your firm a deliberate and intentional part of your daily operations by aligning resources to clear roles outlined in a responsibility matrix will help supercharge your organization for rapid growth into the future. Be intentional with your desired growth goals, and take advantage of the benefits of defining a responsibility matrix that is aligned with the broader strategic goals you are striving to meet.