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Managing and managing people
Managing and managing people

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9.1 Work shedding

By work shedding we mean:

  • stopping doing some tasks
  • changing the task method to one taking less time
  • reducing the quality of some work
  • transferring tasks to other people.

Getting rid of some of your work is an obvious solution. The problem for some managers is that they don’t know how to, or are unwilling to. They are perfectionists, worriers, interferers, individuals who cannot let go. The techniques of shedding work are simple. You need to:

  • concentrate effort on your key activities
  • delegate.

To concentrate on key activities requires you to identify carefully those tasks which must be done thoroughly. This does not mean that the others can be done to an unacceptable standard, but that you are better placed to allocate time and effort appropriately. The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 law, should help you to sort out your priorities. It asserts, on quite strong evidence, that 80% of our results are generally produced by 20% of our effort – and that the remaining 80% of our effort is swallowed up in achieving that last 20% of our results. If this holds true for managers, then a lot of effort is devoted to jobs that don’t merit the effort. These jobs are candidates for shedding, or at least for receiving less attention. The trick, of course, is to identify the key 20% that means so much to your success.

Delegation is the other main device for shedding work. Delegation means giving someone the authority (and the necessary resources, including time) to do something on your behalf. We mainly use the term when transferring work to the people who work for us. When you do this you retain the responsibility for it. Responsibility has been compared with influenza – you can pass it on but you cannot get rid of it. In exercising your responsibility you must strike an appropriate balance between trust and interference. When we transfer work to another department, or to a supplier or customer, we would usually call this transferring, rather than delegating work.