Multipurposing and Fuzzy Delegation: New Survival Skills for Managers
Small and midsize business leaders have so much to do! How can you do it all, competing against the big guns, when there’s so much demand on your time and resources?
“Multitasking” is NOT the answer.
Multitasking is a lie–you’re really “switch-tasking,” and switching costs you big time (see Dave Crenshaw, The Myth of Multitasking).
Proof: The Total, Relaxed Organization time management system (mine) works mostly because it naturally minimizes switching. (Results: an average of 600 hours per year reclaimed, 60% reduction in stress. See live stats here.)
WIN: Multipurposing (The New Multitasking 2.0)
Sure, an extra 600 hours/yr helps, but to really “get everything done” in the 21st century I believe business leaders need to master a new skill: “multipurposing.” It’s also known as “killing two birds with one stone,” solving more than one problem with a single action, or “integrative thinking.”
Lessons from 9th Grade P.E.
I learned this principle the hard way—in 9th grade P.E. class. I was an underage, scrawny kid playing football with the jocks. When they handed out offense assignments, my job was always the same: “go up front and block.” Yeah, right! With everyone else doing the “important” jobs, I was left facing two big guys at once. How could I possibly stop them? FAIL.
But then something wonderful happened. I discovered that one skiiny kid could block two big guys at the same time … by blocking or tripping one big guy INTO another bug guy. The blocks weren’t impressive or bone-crushing, but they lasted long enough to run the plays. (Confession: Their frustrated looks when I blocked them made me feel a little bit powerful.) WIN.
This experience demonstrates the principles of multipurposing. To multipurpose, you must:
- Clearly see what’s most important to you and your company. This includes opportunities and threats, even if they seem to conflict.
- See how those things are actually connected. (“Creativity is just connecting things.” – Steve Jobs)
- Address several of those issues at once (problems and opportunities) with a single solution.
Don’t Forget “Agility”
When multipurposing, you also need to be “agile.” I tell clients and staff that “agile” means:
- It must NOT be perfect at first, and
- Improve it rapidly, over and over (iterating) as you get solid feedback.
In other words, get it done fast, get it out there fast, then improve it fast, over and over. Apple is great at this. Do you remember the FIRST iPhone? They kept improving it–obsessively–until they dominated.
An Example: Multipurposing via “Fuzzy Delegation”
Consider these (seemingly conflicting) needs:
- New staff needs to be trained and developed.
- Many big projects need to be dealt with.
- You are overwhelmed with smaller but important things.
Multipurposing Solution: “Fuzzy delegate” one large project to each new staff member:
- Hand off the project by telling them what you know about it already and describing this fuzzy delegation process to them.
- They start working on it and see what solutions and information they can come up with,
- They report back regularly to propose solutions, get feedback and course corrections, and refine the results.
Outcomes from this approach:
- Staff develops initiative and feels ownership of their projects.
- Happy staff. See this amazing video:
- Subject matter experts (SMEs) develop around the projects assigned to them. People will go to them for answers, not you.
- Staff gets trained by you in just a few minutes per week (in your 1-1s).
- Projects get handled!
- Multiple minds handle the projects, which means more creative solutions.
- You are now delegating even tough projects to new people, so you begin to feel less overwhelmed.
- You build excellent accountability in your regular 1-1 meetings, so staff and teams will flourish.
The Principles: Why Does it Work?
Looking back, it’s easy to see why this works:
- You’re handling multiple issues at once (multipurposing).
- You’re doing it in an iterative, agile way (“fuzzy delegation” means you keep revisiting it, getting it better each time).
- You’re relying on other proven management and leadership principles in your solution (delegation, accountability, communication, collaboration, leadership, employee engagement, employee development).
What’s Your Experience?
Have you done something like this and found success? What was it? Don’t forget to point us to your web site or other success story while you’re at it. I did 😉 , and we’d all like to see your results. – KC
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