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When the Torch is Passed Take the Initiative and Ask: Guidelines for Requesting Additional Resources

Posted on November 4, 2008 by Jeff

Since my last post, I Stand Corrected: Blogging is More Than Random Thoughts and Voyeurs, I’ve continued to tune in to the content generated by our team. I was recently struck by an entry from Brian entitled, Taking a Step Back: A Business Owner’s Perspective on Letting the Team Take Over.
Brian honestly wrestles with his necessity as a partner to continually pass on the “torch”. He summarizes his conclusion as, “If we’re [leadership] leveraging every resource available to attack the highest priority opportunities in the best way possible, maybe it’s time to let the team carry the torch.” As a manager, a member of the team, I’m both encouraged and challenged by this leadership style.

Everyone Take One Step Back, I’m Taking the Next Bullet

How do you, as a member of the team, in turn encourage and challenge leadership to invest resources to attack the highest priority opportunities within your department?  That’s a question I’ve been wrestling with as it pertains to supply chain.  As I recently worked through this I noted thoughts that I believe are important to consider when making your case.

First, clearly identify what you and your department are actually responsible for.  The lines of responsibility can get cloudy unless there is mutual understanding about the hand off of a project from one department to the next, around the office we’ve begun to understand this as the “Handshake of Responsibility”.  This has been a difficult transition for me. I naturally want to see a project through to “completion”.  I do this partly because I naturally look to retain control, partly because I don’t want others performance or lack of performance to reflect poorly on me, and ultimately I want Gordian Project to be successful. However, this handshake method has been a freeing concept. “Completion” may not necessarily mean seeing a specific project from A to Z, rather my action plan of A to I, with the responsibility clearly being passed at J. This handshake method is about the clearest indicator we’ve had to communicate, “I’ve successfully completed what’s been asked of me.” I’m then freed to focus on other projects and/or processes leadership has asked of me.

Second, clearly communicate your competency of the responsibilities owned. The point of communicating known competencies isn’t to be arrogant, but to add awareness of resources that may be available to provide assistance.  Note that no matter the size of your company resources are limited, and knowing the capabilities of the resources can be the difference between making or breaking deadlines. Everything in business is about prioritizing opportunities with resources. If you can’t communicate competency within your area of responsibility you’re unlikely to be resourced. For each area of responsibility look to communicate:

  • Philosophies - I understand why we do what we do.
  • Strategic Goals - I understand where we want to be.
  • Management - I understand how to get there.
  • Processes - I understand what we do.

Then, provide a tangible comprehensive document, hard copy or electronic, that serves as a departmental manual.  Something that allows the executive leadership to understand all that makes your department tick along with providing the processes so your team understands how to make it tick. Clearly state needed resources as this is where the rubber meets the road, as my grandfather would say. Asking for resources assumes you’ve “clearly identified what you’re actually responsible for and clearly communicated your competency of responsibilities”. Understanding what leadership looking for when prioritizing resources can help management determine where and when the next set of resources will be applied.  I would bet that the following factors play a part in their decision:

  • Strategic Goals - With an understanding of limited resources, limit the strategic goals to those prioritized as the immediate keys to moving your department forward.  Keep each area of responsibility separate in the philosophical vision.
  • Resources - Identify specific required resources for realizing your stated strategic goals. Consider as many factors as possible: budget, time, personnel, physical goods, other department’s resourcing, reports, benchmarking, etc. and limit them to the actual need for realizing opportunity.
  • Incentives - Provide leadership with reasoning for resourcing your strategic goals. Don’t make them wonder why they should provide the requested resources; spell it out. What are the opportunities and efficiencies you’re going to specifically bring to your department with the provided resources. Go the extra mile and connect your department’s potential successes to the larger company vision.
  • Timeline - Should the resources be provided; simply asking for resources demands performance. Set a realistic completion date, company visionaries will appreciate a target for rallying the whole of their business initiatives around. Timelines also set an expectation for response from your leadership.

Talk about calling yourself out; everyone take one step back, I’m taking the next bullet Smile.

In truth, having an understanding of where you are, where you’re going, and how to communicate the process of arriving, will encourage and allow your team to step up and perform.  It also provides the confidence to be held accountable for that personal performance. Brian, thank you for wrestling honestly with your necessity as a partner to continually pass on the “torch”, and in so doing encouraging others, in similar fashion, to do the same.

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