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  • Delegating, then assuming tasks are completeÖ rather than @Waiting ForÖ

    Hi All,

    Iíve had an incident at work recently, which initially made me question my GTD practices, but ultimately, itís made me question the non-GTDíing practices of those around me.

    Several weeks ago, my manager asked me to complete a particular project/task Ė coding our database so it could import reports from an external supplier and merge these with data we already hold in the system. This was duly completed and I let my manager know it was complete.

    After a week or so, because of a change in the reports sent from the external supplier, this new coding would not work with the new style reports.

    I notified my manager of this and said I was working on new code to fix this problem. In the meantime, any reports were merged in the old format so it didnít stop the workflow.

    Iíd not been notified of any deadlines or how urgent or low priority it was from my manager. This made it to my Project/Next Actions List with no particular due date (otherwise it would be on the calendar or as a dated task) and no particular urgency.

    At the same time, I undertook the development of a completely new database system from scratch, which needed to be running live within a couple of weeks of being assigned it. My manager emphasised that this was a priority and I was given a deadline date it had to be completed by.

    To get this new system up and running I had to cancel 4 days holiday before Christmas; work over 12 hour days and on some days go in during my holiday to get this completed. I didnít mind doing this as it doesnít happen often and Iíll generally do whateverís needed to get the job done.

    The system went live, worked fine and everyone was happy.

    Two days later I get a frantic call from my manager, asking me if or why the update of the code to allow the previous database to merge the reports had not been completed. They thought it had been done a couple of weeks previous and had been running in the meantime.

    I explained the new coding was still ongoing and that the new system had taken priority recently. I said that I had not notified to anyone that this coding had been completed and that they had been originally notified of the problem and that the solution was still ongoing.

    They then told me it was a priority, it should have been completed by then and that it needed doing straight away. So another late night and it was fixed and updated.

    Initially I felt this task had slipped through the net and Iíd missed it Ė I felt guilty that Iíd not done it sooner. It was an open loop that Iíd missed.

    But then I got thinking; here was an item on my project/action list with no deadline or priority and my manager assumed it was completed simply after a given time. They didnít ask me about it until it was already crisis time.

    We have no scheduled or even regular meetings regarding workloads; tasks are delegated to me, I complete them and notify whoever assigned me the task. If I donít say itís done, itís not done!

    If no deadline is set and they need something sooner they usually ask for a status update after a few days etc. In this case no update was requested as they thought it had already been completed.

    So where does this get me? A few questions, thatís where!

    If someone requests an action from me, Iím thinking that should be on their ď@Waiting ForÖĒ list so they can track me?

    At the same time, it makes it into my Project/Next Action lists or calendar if a deadline has been set and I track it from there. Once completed I notify them, they tick it off their @Waiting ForÖ list.

    If they donít set a deadline itís open ended and when a larger project is initiated with priority and deadline, then that would come first?

    If someone delegates a task to me, should they have to track whether it gets done or can they assume it will be done? Iíll let them know when itís complete, but if I donít say itís completed itís a dangerous game for them to assume itís complete without checking with me first?

    Iíd never assume anything, instead it would go on an @Waiting For list instead. I can then tickle a reminder for a week or so to see if itís completed or what the delay/progress is.

    If it was that urgent it should have been stated first and then a reminder set to chase me if not completed within their timescale (not that there was one initially!).

    Initially I thought Iíd let this one slip through my net, now Iím thinking it slipped through their's by not tracking me?

    Perhaps I should ALWAYS get a priority/deadline date?

    Do you track everything you delegate? (I do for critical tasks)

    Many thanks for reading, any comments/feedback very much welcome.

    And if my manager should happen to read this, no hard feelings, just wondered how recent events all fit in with GTD!!

    Many thanks,

    Andy.

  • #2
    While it would be wonderful and best if the people around us implemented the basics of GTD, reality is it's very unlikely.

    My suggestion would be for you to confirm a task's deadline/priority when it's delegated to you, and not assume that it is low-priority if someone doesn't explicitly state a deadline.

    This gives you the upper-hand in the future, as if you asked your boss for a deadline and he said "anytime's fine" (and ideally you would get this in writing in an email), and then came to you two weeks later in crisis mode, you could refer back to his earlier statement and clear yourself of fault.

    Marina

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    • #3
      Further thought

      Originally posted by MarinaMartin View Post
      While it would be wonderful and best if the people around us implemented the basics of GTD, reality is it's very unlikely.

      My suggestion would be for you to confirm a task's deadline/priority when it's delegated to you, and not assume that it is low-priority if someone doesn't explicitly state a deadline.

      This gives you the upper-hand in the future, as if you asked your boss for a deadline and he said "anytime's fine" (and ideally you would get this in writing in an email), and then came to you two weeks later in crisis mode, you could refer back to his earlier statement and clear yourself of fault.

      Marina
      I agree with all this, but I'd say rather than confirm a task's deadline or priority, think of it as NEGOTIATING a tasks deadline or priority. Otherwise, you may get hammered by someone to whom EVERYTHING is "due yesterday". This attitude may also protect your workload a bit. Best of luck!

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      • #4
        Very true; many of us are the only GTDers in our environments.

        Just putting the above suggestion in other words: whenever you are about to get a new task assigned, keep the current assignments in front and discuss the relative priorities of all those and the new one with your boss. Need not do this when the activity is not very high, but needed when even two activities will have a potential priority clash. Of course this is post-facto wisdom, perhaps it could not have been anticipated.

        Another thing you could do is discuss this situation objectively with your boss with the explicit purpose of not blaming anybody but avoiding such situations in future. It may create useful protocols at your place for assigning tasks, formal or informal.

        Regards,
        Abhay

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        • #5
          Originally posted by AndyD View Post
          If someone requests an action from me, Iím thinking that should be on their ď@Waiting ForÖĒ list so they can track me?

          If they donít set a deadline itís open ended and when a larger project is initiated with priority and deadline, then that would come first?

          Perhaps I should ALWAYS get a priority/deadline date?
          (1) Remember that not everyone is doing GTD, and you can't make them

          (2) If you have more than one thing to do, I'd ask the person you assigned them what they think should be the priority.

          (3) One thing GTD has helped me with is, that I'm very aware when someone asks for something without a deadline, and then I ask them, so I can get it in my system.

          - Don

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          • #6
            How To Track Delegated Items

            I'd recommend some sort of online collaboration tool that can be checked by all. I was in a habit of delegating stuff to my assistants, but then I'd have to check with them to know whether they were complete or not which gave the impression that I was checking up on their work when I all I wanted to know was if it had been completed.

            Now I assign tasks by using an online to do list. This generates an email to them of what I need done. If it's a prioirty item I say so when I assign it. Once it is assigned, the to do list has the item with their name right next to it. When it is completed they can check it off. I can then review the list and see in an instance what's waiting for completion.

            At first, they'd forget to check things off and then I'd be asking them to go in and cross their items off. So I then set up a weekly email reminder to remind them to go review the list and check off completed items.

            This system works extremely well and also provides a history of completed items for later review and no one forgets what's pending since we are not trying to remember everything in our head.
            Last edited by BlackBeltProject; 01-18-2009, 09:11 AM.

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