Who Will Do What by When?

Who Will do What by When?

Unlocking the value in your organization requires accountability at all levels of the organization. Like in the National Football League, everyone must do their job.   As problems are identified, actions need to be assigned and completed.  There are three critical questions that make accountability for these actions far more robust:  who will do what by when?


When assigning a task, “who” is always singular. We call them the Single Point of Accountability, or SPA. Often we hear everyone is responsible for safety, but the intent is typically to say everyone is responsible for following the safety procedures, for working in a safe manner, for making safety their priority in making decisions and taking actions. However, when we talk about who is responsible for ensuring everyone is following procedures, ensuring procedures are being written, and ensuring hazards are being identified, documented and eliminated, that needs to be one single person.

The single accountable person may not physically complete the task, but they are responsible for making sure the task is completed and delivering the desired result. If actions are assigned to a team, group, or even two people, then who is responsible if the task is not done? Most in the team will point to others, and even when only two are involved, it is too easy to suggest the other did not deliver.

Will do What

The task need to be S.M.A.R.T.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Tasks need to have a verifiable verb. Words like consider, investigate, review, or look into asre ineffectual. Direct language such as report on the direct cause, document the top five complaints, or create a Pareto of equipment downtime causes are more effective.

By When

The “when” needs to be a specific date in the not too distant future. If an action has a date over two weeks, it is typically because the task is too broad.  Breaking it down into smaller steps helps in two important ways. First, is helps signal if the task is on track. Knowing the first task is completed in a series of tasks gives confidence the overall task will be completed on time. Secondly, solutions are rarely linear. Breaking them into smaller tasks allows for adjustment toward the final solution. For example, a task like “order two way radios for the entire shop with a date of 3 weeks” would be better written as “determine the number of radios needed – tomorrow, get a quote for radios based on count – 2 days, place purchase order for radios – 1 day.” These tasks can be tracked, adjusted based on count and quote, and the actual receipt of the radios will be better understood.

In sum, assign tasks in your organization with single points of accountability and give S.M.A.R.T. tasks with a specific date in the not too distant future.

And remember, “the team will investigate opportunities for future business on a date to be determined….” will never happen!

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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