My Bumper Dictionary of Work

June 28, 2012 by  Filed under: Management 

Over the years I’ve been compiling a special dictionary and phrasebook. It isn’t written down anywhere as yet, I’ve been compiling it in my head. But I think it could be useful.

Words and phrases have been collected from people I’ve met in their various places of work. A lot of the words and phrases used in business have been and are very useful, but it’s amazing how quickly their usefulness can start to disappear. In some cases, a good idea can even cause damage.

For instance, take the word delegation. What an excellent idea! The business owner or manager has so much to do that he can’t possibly do everything himself, so he delegates. What can be wrong with that?

Many benefits result from delegation. The manager is able to get more work done, the people to whom the job has been delegated develop and thrive on their extra responsibility. It is benefit all round.

But delegation is not just one single action. It’s a process that needs to be monitored and nurtured. In a number of situations I have found that a manger has delegated a piece of work and then forgotten about it. At least it looked as though he had forgotten. He never checked how the work was going. He didn’t even hold a serious interview with the delegate to enquire how they felt they were doing the job.

In one case it was fully two years before it was discovered that a once profitable part of the sales activity had started to make a loss. It wasn’t the boss who discovered it then, it was the external auditor who pointed it out.

Why had this situation come about? Well, the boss had always seemed too busy, so that when the poor chap who had been given that responsibility found that things were going wrong, he was reluctant to consult him. After a few months he decided to keep quiet about things and took an attitude of “If the owners can’t be bothered to worry about this, why should I worry?”

It isn’t difficult to imagine how such a situation arose. It was a small firm that had always kept paperwork to a minimum and encouraged face to face talking. When the work was first delegated no system of regular reporting was put in place. The problems could have been spotted much earlier if a simple monthly report had been devised. Of course the boss would have needed to read it.

But the whole question of reporting is a subject in its own right. How many times have you come across a reporting system that is little more than a sequence of tick boxes? And once a report form has been designed, how often have you found people willing to review it and correct the design to make it more effective?

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