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Turn Crappy Staff Work into Quality Staff Work

There comes a point in your career when you really want to leverage others.  The problem is that often you hire someone and give them a project or task, and what they come back with is No Where Near what you were after.

A few issues could be in play: 1) you may not have given clear instructions, 2) your staff person is lazy and incompetent or 3) they haven’t yet learned what it means to turn in quality work. 

If you think the problem is #2, well, you know what to do.  If your problem is #1 or #3, your staff might think their job is to start something, spin their wheels a bit, then come back to you with a few vague ideas and a lot of questions.

I once worked with a staff member who was very new.  She was sharp and had made the mistake of asking me a question that I didn’t know the answer to, so I turned the question back to her to research and summarize. 

Half a day later, what I got back was a document filled with a selection of excerpts from web research, complete with a variety of fonts and sizes, and no real organization or conclusion. It was hardly something that you’d want to put your name on and share with others unless you were looking for a reason to start a new career. 

At this point, I began my kind but firm lesson with her on what it means to turn in quality work to your manager. My staff quickly realized the errors of her ways and corrected course. The result was pleasing.  All along though, I was thinking to myself, wouldn’t it be great to be able to really tell people how this whole “I give you an assignment and you do it right” thing works without having to wade through ill-written and unsupported results? Don’t get me wrong, I love developing staff, but there’s something cathartic about being able to hand them a piece of paper and say “read this” and then talk about what it means…before another tragedy arrives in your inbox.

Enter the Doctrine of Complete Staff Work.  When I first read this, it instantly resonated with me like the need for a third monitor.  I WILL HAND THIS TO MY STAFF AND MAKE THEM READ IT AND ALL ASSIGNMENTS WILL MAGICALLY BE TURNED IN NEEDING ONLY A NOD OF MY HEAD TO BE COMPLETE.  Maybe that’s a bit lofty, but it does help express one’s deep desire not to clean up the crap that you know your staff are fully capable of cleaning up themselves.

To take matters into my own hands, I adapted the original document specifically for professional services.  The original is fabulous on its own, but does assume that someone is fully trained in their job (and apparently that’s now how we work).  The adaptation fits our industry better by giving more flexibility for asking questions along the way without precluding the production of quality work.

So, please, take this masterpiece and share it with your team.  Help them help you. It may scare some, but that’s your job.  Then go grab coffee with a friend because you will have far less work to do reviewing, correcting and fixing the little things.