(Well, not all kinds of delegated tasks are.)

This was originally posted on the Go Free Range blog.

Our friend and occasional colleague Chris Parsons wrote a blog posted titled "Delegated tasks are a team anti-pattern" a few weeks ago that we found very interesting:

How about we give our team goals, not tasks? Let them shoot for something, and work out their own tasks, rather than giving them a simple list of things to do. Goals allow people to apply their own creativity and their own flair to a solution, and the end result will be stamped with their individuality.

Harmonia is all about assigning tasks, and delegation, so it would seem like this is something we should strongly disagree with, right?

Thankfully not. What Chris is saying is that it's often good to let people exercise initiative when it comes to achieving things. Rather than prescribing a specific way for them to work on something, if they understand what the overall goal is then they will be more engaged and feel that their contributions to a team are important and valuable.

However, that said, there are a bunch of tasks where we believe it's exactly right to be prescriptive. I'm talking about tasks that don't require a large amount of creativity; tasks that are necessary-but-boring, for example.

The Necessary-But-Boring

Every team has a bunch of them, from filing things to preparing reports to cleaning, and everything in between. These kinds of tasks actually benefit from having clear, prescriptive instructions, because then they can be performed by anyone with consistent results.

With the necessary-but-boring tasks, the whole team benefits from following the same set of steps, because it allows us to perform them without a large amount of effort, and then quickly return to our creative work without an expensive mental 'context switch'.

There's an analogue in the 'Getting Things Done' world: your 'next action' should always be concrete, and clear, and doable.

For example, "Hire a new person" is not a good 'next action' because it's far from concrete, and doing it is likely going to involve lots of different contexts and actions which will take days, weeks or even months. It can't really be 'done' right now. "Scan and file invoices" is a great next action because it's clear how to do it, relatively quick to do (minutes rather than hours), and obvious when it is 'done'.

Sign up to Harmonia!

If your team has a bunch of necessary-but-boring tasks, you might be able to use Harmonia to remove most of the hassle and friction of making sure these things -- and lots of other more interesting stuff -- actually gets done.

We'd love you to sign up now, and let us know what you think.

-- James A