Discuss Results, Not Tasks

I spoke with a program manager who’d been displaced from his program because he doesn’t scream or yell at people. (No, I’m not making this up. This is true.) He’s an effective program manager, because he doesn’t tell people to do this or that task. Instead, he tells them the goal and the results he’s after.

The replacement program manager has been telling people to do this task and that one, not providing context, and has been holed up in his office creating the ultimate Gantt chart. To be fair, this is a complex product with hardware, some embedded firmware, software, and the hardware will need several iterations before it’s final. A Gantt chart to show the intersecting dates might be helpful for some people. But a Gantt chart down to 30 levels? Not time well-spent.

Folks from the program are stopping by the original program manager’s office. “Can you please come back to the program? I don’t know what’s going on. I never see the new guy. He yells, but I have no idea why he’s upset.”

The new program manager is creating a disaster/emergency. But it will be one with a great Gantt chart, and he will have yelled at everyone.

If you ask people to deliver results, you are likely to get them. If you measure or assess people on how they perform certain tasks, such as yelling at program staff, or how well people work on a task in isolation, you will get what you measure. But it won’t be what you want.

Remember to measure what done means, not the tasks people do. Your tasks might not be my tasks. As long as we agree on done and we both recognize when we’ve achieved done, we will succeed. That’s the idea behind looking for results, not tasks.

10 Replies to “Discuss Results, Not Tasks”

  1. Probably just human nature. Many expect a leader – the boss – to tell others what to do and supervise the doers while they go from task to task. Works well in many places but not very good if it’s about processing information and working with knowledge.

  2. From John Shook, I think it’s important to watch out for the laissez-faire, “I only care about results” approach as well. Never tell people what to do but also continue to challenge thinking and develop people.

  3. I am REALLY interested to know how the situation unfold of the project you mentioned above.

    Maybe we can have separate category about real life stories… 😉

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