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You Don't Have to Do It AloneHow to Involve Others to Get Things Done
By Richard H. Axelrod Emily M. Axelrod Julie Beedon Robert W. Jacobs
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2004 Richard H. Axelrod, Emily M. Axelrod, Julie Beedon, and Robert W. Jacobs
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhat Kind of Involvement Is Needed?
A few years ago, Jake was faced with a challenging project. A friend had given him his first puppy, a black Labrador retriever. His family already had dogs; his daughter and son each had one. But Theo (named after jazz great Thelonius Monk) was Jake's first, and that made him responsible for everything from feeding and training the puppy to taking him outside in the middle of the night when nature called.
Theo proved to be an active little guy. His idea of fun included activities like chewing on someone's sandal and polishing off a whole chicken left unguarded on a kitchen counter.
After a few days of this, Jake's wife helped him get clear that more involvement was needed. "You have three choices, honey," she patiently explained. "Theo can clean up his act, or you can find him another home."
"What's the third choice?" Jake wondered.
"You can find a new home. Do I make myself clear?"
Jake's work was cut out for him. The kids already considered Theo part of the family—to say nothing about Jake's growing attachment to the pup. But Theo needed to behave better if the Jacobs' happy home was to remain intact.
Jake trying to get the job done alone was not the ticket. Different people with different kinds of involvement were needed. First came the instructor at an obedience class. Next came the kids. Someone had to partner with Theo on his homework when Jake was out of town on business. Theo had to pitch in and do his fair share. He had to learn that sandals were for people's feet, not dogs' mouths, and that his food was in a bowl on the floor, not on a tray on the counter. Even Jake's wife had to reluctantly get involved so the pupil received consistent rewards and corrections.
Jake was confident of success if everyone pulled together. And they did.
Today when Theo and Jake take walks around town, people comment on what a good dog he is. Most days Theo visits Jake's office, where he's become a company mascot. It's even been more than a year since he ate the chicken that was left unattended in the kitchen one day!
By involving others, Jake achieved both of his goals: a four-legged friend for life and a reasonably contented wife.
Is Doing It Alone Your Best Answer?
In Jake's situation, it was clear he needed to involve others. But it's not often such a clear-cut decision. Involving other people takes time. There's an inherent "hassle factor" when you get more cooks in the kitchen. How will it impact the quality of the work you do? Are you going to have to make too many concessions to keep people satisfied that their voices are being heard? Is your invitation for others to get involved the first step down a slippery slope where every decision becomes a never-ending debate? Your track record of including others may have left a bad taste in your mouth.
Given these possible headaches, it's important to decide whether it makes sense to involve others before getting clear on what kind of involvement you might need. We recommend you start with a tool we call the Return on Involvement Assessment Tool. It can help you decide from the get-go whether to involve other people in what you're up to.
ROI is business shorthand for return on investment. It's a standard way of assessing the potential value of a financial transaction. The ROI calculation answers the question, "Is this work worthwhile from a financial perspective?" Initiatives with higher returns on investment are allocated time, money, and other resources. Initiatives with lower ROIs get put on hold or are scrapped.
This traditional definition of ROI doesn't deal with the additional question, "Does it make sense to involve others in this work?" To answer that question, effective involvers supplement the traditional return on investment analysis with a return on involvement analysis. This second type of ROI focuses on whether an involvement-based approach makes sense for what you need to get done. A high return on involvement means you'll see a big payoff in quality, commitment, and productivity from engaging others. A lower return on involvement means you may do the work better alone or with only a few others.
You can see the Return on Involvement Assessment Tool in Figure 1.1.
An engineering manager we know road-tested the Return on Involvement Assessment Tool. He used it in approaching a project to reduce the cycle time it took to make revisions to engineering drawings. Let's follow his line of thinking through his answers to the tool's questions in Figure 1.2.
Now it's your turn. Think of some project or initiative where you might be wondering about whether it makes sense to involve others. Then use the Return on Involvement Assessment Tool to get clearer about whether you should involve others or not.
What Kind of Involvement Do You Need?
If you have decided it makes sense to involve others, you now need to determine the kind of involvement that will be best for your particular situation.
Whether you're acting as a manager at work or welcoming a new puppy into your home, it's important not to be tempted to skip this question. Early on you may feel pulled toward immediate action. Maybe you've got a big assignment that's due soon. Pausing to get clear before you start working may seem like a waste of valuable time. Or maybe you're thinking that this question is overkill for you: "What we're doing is simple. Heck, we could be done in the time it'll take to determine the kind of involvement I need."
These are common feelings. But if you're serious about being an effective involver, it's important to rethink these assumptions. Rather than plunging headfirst into your work, take a "Go slow to go fast" approach. When you invest the time to get clear about the kind of involvement you need, you make it easier for people to join you. You'll be able to easily explain the type of help you need and why you need them to pitch in. People are drawn to clarity. Answer this question well and people will want to work with you.
It may be easiest for you to do this up-front thinking alone, or you may want to ask for help from a few others. Either way, your most important objective is to be able to explain clearly and succinctly the kind of involvement you need and why you've decided on this type.
Consider who, if anyone, can help you get clear. If you want to assemble a core group and haven't yet, do so now. There's no rule about how many people is the right number. Invite enough people to ensure that your initial thinking is solid, but not so many that you get bogged down before you even get started. Don't choose folks with whom you tend to always agree. Reach out to a critical friend. If you pay attention to the big picture, recruit someone who focuses on details. If you're the logical type, find someone who picks up on other people's emotions.
Why Determines How
When you get clear on the reasons you need to involve others in your work, you'll become clear on the kind of involvement you'll need to get the job done.
Here are four basic reasons for reaching out to engage others:
You need others' specific expertise or "Know-How Involvement"—there are skills and knowledge required that you don't have.
You need others' help with basic to do's or "Arms and Legs Involvement"—the job is too big for you to get done on your own.
You need others' buy-in or "Care and Commitment Involvement"—without their long-term commitment you'll never be successful.
You need others to become more capable in the future or "Teaching and Learning Involvement"—this enables others to take on more responsibilities and frees you to make other contributions.
These different kinds of involvement are not mutually exclusive. In most cases, you'll need to tap into more than one type of involvement to be successful. Let's take a look at the story of Jake and his new puppy that opened this chapter.
Jake needed the Know-How Involvement of the obedience class instructor to tame Theo's rambunctious behavior. He needed the Arms and Legs Involvement of his kids to pitch in with Theo's training when he was out of town. His wife's Care and Commitment Involvement was a critical success factor, because if she didn't buy in to the whole idea of another dog, Theo would never have made it in the front door. And during those hours spent in the yard calling out "Heel, Theo, heel!" Jake needed Teaching and Learning Involvement from the pup so that he didn't face the prospect of losing his voice every time he walked the dog.
Our engineer focused on a different combination of types of involvement in reducing the cycle time it took to make revisions to engineering drawings. He believed he had the knowledge and experience to complete the redesign work on his own, but doing so could have left others confused about why he was making certain changes. They could have objected to his plans. This told him he needed to reach out and create some Care and Commitment Involvement.
By completing his return on involvement analysis, he realized that without involving others, he could also be missing an opportunity to come up with the best solution to his problem. Though he thought he knew enough to solve the problem on his own, it was clear to him that others had experiences and perspectives he did not. So there was also a component of Know-How Involvement he needed to consider as he went about his work.
Let's take a closer look at each of these four kinds of involvement and how you'll know which is your best bet in different situations.
Know-How Involvement. You use Know-How Involvement to tap into skills, knowledge, or experience that is needed to move your work forward but that you don't possess. Telltale signs that this is the kind of involvement you need include situations where you:
Realize you lack formal schooling for the work at hand. This is the case, for example, when you could benefit from having a finance expert on a project team at work, a marketing expert for a new program at your local school, or an engineer to help assess the renovations needed at your church.
Are clear about your current circumstances and where you want to be in the future, but don't see a roadmap for getting from "here" to "there." Architects, interior designers, and general contractors can all help you bring the image of your dream home into focus and lay out the steps to follow in building it. A manager may know specifications for features and pricing of a new product, but she needs members of her development team to chart a course that creates the actual product.
Might have some expertise in a particular area, but where others have more and could do the job better, faster, or cheaper. Yes, you might eventually get that new disposal installed in the kitchen, but a professional plumber could have it done this afternoon, putting you in a much better mood for going out on the town later that night. At work, you might have come up through the ranks as an engineer and still be less than an expert when it comes to the latest software. This is a time to make use of Know-How Involvement.
Arms and Legs Involvement. You use Arms and Legs Involvement to check off to do's when the list is too long for you to tackle on your own. You've got the know-how, but the scope of work exceeds your time and energy or you'd be better off applying your expertise in other ways. Here are some situations that set off warning bells that it's time to reach out for this kind of involvement:
The work is simple and repetitive—easily done by another. When it's time to move to a new home, close friends sometimes pitch in to help you pack. You might even hire parts of the job out to professional movers. Retail businesses are famous for an "all hands on deck" approach to sales days when people come flocking in and the standard shift assignments alone would lead to long lines and disgruntled customers.
The amount of work is more than you can handle on your own. Have you ever signed on to organize the Christmas tree sales or car washing fundraisers for your child's scout or youth group? Imagine the hours you'd have spent freezing or soaked if other parents had not contributed their fair share. If you've ever had a hand in setting up for a large meeting or trade show at work, you know firsthand the benefits of Arms and Legs Involvement.
Your time could be better spent doing other things. Hiring out your lawn care, house cleaning, or even the babysitter on Saturday night are all examples of this kind of involvement. Public transportation such as buses and trains are another example of this type of involvement. They make it possible to finish a final edit on a paper or catch a catnap on the way to and from work.
Care and Commitment Involvement. You use Care and Commitment Involvement to create buy-in from others to the work you need to do. This type of involvement is called for when:
The work you are doing involves change. Without others' caring and commitment, you'll never implement your best-laid plans. At a personal level, marriage is a great example requiring this kind of involvement. It can represent the single greatest change in your life. Without deep caring and commitment, couples never stand a chance of adapting to the many changes that go hand-in-hand with those vows. When you think about getting people on board with new strategies or ways of working in organizations, Caring and Commitment Involvement is what you're after.
You need people to stay involved over an extended period of time. If you agree to take tickets at the door for your church's annual fundraiser, that's Arms and Legs Involvement. But if you've chaired the planning subcommittee for the six months leading up to the gala event, you're clearly in Care and Commitment Involvement territory. The best teams you've been part of have featured this type of involvement. You were in it together over the long haul to accomplish shared goals.
Excerpted from You Don't Have to Do It Alone by Richard H. Axelrod Emily M. Axelrod Julie Beedon Robert W. Jacobs Copyright © 2004 by Richard H. Axelrod, Emily M. Axelrod, Julie Beedon, and Robert W. Jacobs. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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