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If Everyone Owns the Task, No One Owns the Task

A group of people can own an outcome. A group of people can own a responsibility, or even a set of responsibilities. But a group of people can’t own a task. Tasks with no owners are orphaned, and they suffer from having no owner.

If a group of people own a task, then no one owns that task. If it isn’t clear who is responsible to complete the task, then the task won’t get done, or it will only be done sporadically.

I see this problem especially when a task is transactional or when a client is transactional. Someone needs to make a call and follow up with a transactional client, but because the client is transactional, it isn’t assigned to an individual. Instead, it is assigned to a group. Someone is supposed to make the call. All of the group members assume someone else will make the call, so no one makes the call.

Because the task is orphaned, the client is also orphaned and neglected.

But the problem of a task having no real owner isn’t limited to transactional clients. Sometimes transactional tasks that need to be completed for strategic clients get missed simply because the task is transactional. Even if the task is mundane and transactional, it doesn’t mean that a strategic client doesn’t need the task completed, that it isn’t part of the value that you create. Maybe someone needs to run a simple report each week. It may not seem like a big enough task that someone needs to own the task, but without someone owning the task, it is easily overlooked or forgotten.–especially when there is more important work that needs done.

Missing the smaller, transactional tasks can put your larger, more strategic objectives at risk. Someone needs to own them.

Have you sat through a meeting where tasks were identified without a decision being made as to who owns the task? Ever sat through the follow up meeting where it was discovered that the tasks weren’t completed? When tasks are identified, the owner of that task also needs to be identified. Commitments need to be made and kept, regardless of how trivial or mundane the task.

Orphaned tasks don’t get completed. Each task needs an owner, someone responsible for ensuring that it is completed. If everyone owns a task, then no one owns it.

Questions

Why are transactional tasks overlooked?

Have you ever missed completing a transactional task that put a more strategic outcome or client at risk?

How do you determine who owns a transactional task? How do you ensure that the tasks are completed?


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