What is Task, Ownership and Responsibility

Many knowledge workers, professionals and managers are trying to do something … hack productivity (I think a different group is trying to hack creativity too ..) and the words in the title have become what I might call buzz words in management for a long time

TASK, OWNERSHIP AND RESPONSIBILITY (with ownership the new kid on the block)

I was invited recently to speak at a retreat on the topic; Accountability & Result; Task, Ownership and Responsibility

For me to deliver on this topic, the words needed to be explained in simple relatable terms. No jargons, just simple everyday words and examples. Of course, there are textbook definitions to these words, but I needed to take another look at it

It’s important to mention that these words should be seen as verbs (action words) to gain maximum value, and they are very important to the result /contribution you make to your organisation

… getting results, getting things done

Organisations (especially knowledge and creative-driven organisations) are looking for individuals who understand the companies vision and can define a path to fulfilment. Delivering a vision entails deliberateness, you would need to RESPONSIBLY OWN your TASK …

As Peter Drucker rightly put it; ‘the knowledge worker cannot be supervised closely or in detail. He can only be helped. But he must direct himself towards performance and contribution, that it towards effectiveness … Since the knowledge worker directs himself, he must understand what achievement is expected of him and why … He must be focused on the results and performance goals of the entire organisation to have any results and performance at all. This means that he has to set aside time to direct his vision from his work to results’.

Thank you Drucker …

So what is the simple way of defining Task, Ownership and Responsibility

TASK: … what needs to get done

This is simple, the things you write down to get done are your tasks. The keyword here is ‘to get done’.

Anything that gets done, gets done from a TASK. A Task is so important because that big hairy audacious goal eventually gets down to paper series of small things that would define the future state

Everybody has a task to do, it’s either you create one or it’s created for you. Developing skills in properly defining your task, priorities are and ensure they get done is a basic step to being productive

You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.

Alvin Toffler

Ownership: … being your own CEO

Think about the word ‘owner’ now think of ‘ship’, then join the two words and it sounds something like, the owner of the ship and this is it. Be the owner of the task, be the CEO of getting it done. 

Be responsible for the outcome, not excuses. Just like the president, the founder or the CEO. They are responsible for the outcome of their people so they take ownership.

If you own a property, you would be curious to know its current state, value & worth, and also, what its future will be if properly invested. 

A task is like a property, it needs an owner to have value and worth. A task is like a ship that needs to be moved to a destination (a goal). Own your task because you are its CEO

If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.

Napoleon Hill

Responsibility: …having the right answer

This is tricky because it basically says that you are responsible when you have the right answers. Now think again, having the right answers not having the perfect answer

Simple, has “xyz” being done, No. Why, because the government released a new policy that has affected the TAX rates so our vendors have asked for 2 weeks to rework the numbers … bla bla bla. Yet the task hasn’t been done, but he/she knows the why. It would have been perfect if it was done, but he /she has the right answer by knowing a reasonable reason why it hasn’t. This is taking responsibility for the outcome

A major place the term responsibility plays is in parenting. Parents understand they are responsible for their children and they ensure to always have the right answer when asked the question; “where is your child?”

Taking responsibility in owning your task can be a difficult thing if you are not connected to the strategic objective of the company

It all starts from the top. Understanding what the value(s), mission and vision (VMV) is, what goals have been set for the year, customer, product, service or employees. This would help give insight into what plan has to be created, a step by step approach to fulfilling the strategy. Then you have your operational task, where it all boils down, your to-dos that need to get done

Understanding this approach as been a journey for me at Softcom. Peter Drucker’s quote above is a perfect way to explain how we work. An autonomous organisation that invests time to explain the why then gives you the liberty to chart your course. 

This type of environment quickly pushes you up the responsibility ladder, whereas a manager or intern you have to own your task enough to get the task done