Delegation: Whack-a-Mole Management
Remember the Whack-a-Mole game? For many organizations, the end of the fiscal year is prime season for Whack-a-Mole. In case you aren't familiar with it, Whack-a-Mole is a children's arcade game where the child stands with a rubber mallet in front of a table, waiting for the Moles to pop up. As they pop up, the child scores points for banging them down with the mallet before they retreat.
As year-end heats up (or any time things are hectic), you can easily leave your staff feeling like they are playing Whack-a-Mole. Something comes to your attention that just has to get handled. You email someone on your staff and ask them to handle it. No big deal; you're just delegating. But as things pop up more often, if you don't prioritize, pretty soon your staff is playing Whack-a-Mole.
The downside of having your staff play Whack-a-Mole is that it undermines their ability to make progress on any one thing. They spend so much of their time trying to catch what you're throwing at them before it hits the ground that they can't get anything done. And, if you're not careful this becomes part of your culture. Your 800 pound Gorilla sees how much fun Whack-a-Mole is and pretty soon the whole organization is spending so much time juggling that productivity takes a nose dive.
So how do you fix that?
First, think about your own activities. Are you playing Whack-a-Mole with your own priorities? Do you find uninterrupted time to work on something with concentration or are you constantly trying to bat down the latest thing to pop up? If you find your own time filled with Whack-a-Mole activities, it's likely that you delegate in a way that traps your staff into playing too.
Second, prioritize before you delegate. Instead of delegating each thing as it comes in, create a buffer for accumulating special requests. Your executive assistant can manage the buffer till you are ready to act on the items. Then you can organize and prioritize them so that you make one request of each person and communicate what is most important and/or urgent.
About the Author: Dr. Linda Ford is an expert on corporate culture - that 800 Pound Gorilla that does whatever it wants to in your organization. She is a consultant, speaker, and author helping organizations tame their Gorilla. For free resources to help you tame your Gorilla, visit http://TameTheGorilla.com.