Task Allocation

Pick the Right Player for the job

Task Allocation - Pick the Right Player for the Job

© Veer
Tom Gowanlock

Make sure that you assign the right task to the right player.

In any team sport, a lot of time is spent choosing the players who will play in each game.

The selection process also involves deciding the position where each team member will play, based on the player's skill, form (current ability to perform well) and the likely opposition that the team will face.

Just as this is true in sport, it is true in business. Leaders need to select the right people for the right jobs, and assign them tasks that fit with their skills and proficiencies. This provides structure.

So how do you do this? To field a match-winning team, first you need to understand the game that has to be played and the skills and abilities required to play it: There's no point asking a football team to play baseball if you want to win at the top level.

Then you have to place the correct player in the correct position. Mere common sense, you would think – but then, as the old quip goes, "common sense is often quite uncommon".

How to Use the Tool

Here we give you the four-step "BALM" method to achieve correct role allocation:

  • Break down the broader team goals into specific, individual tasks. List all tasks, and then rank each task in terms of importance.
  • Analyze and list the competencies required to perform each task.
  • List the competencies of each team member.
  • Match individuals to task competencies.

Tip:

An easy way of doing this is to write down the competencies needed for each task on one color of Post-It® Note, and the competencies of each team member on another color of Post-It Note. You can then move these around as you match people to roles.

Post-It® is a trademark of 3M Corporation.

This is great as a starting point, but in the real world you'll most-likely find lots of overlaps and lots of gaps. In such cases you have to take considered decisions.

Overlaps and Gaps

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Where you have overlaps, you have two choices: Either allotting better qualified individuals to more important tasks, or allocating the task to the person at the lowest organizational level who is qualified to do the job. Both approaches have their virtues, but in different situations: One allows you to do the job with a higher level of certainty, the other allows you to do it more efficiently and at a lower cost.

Where you have a gap, you may need to train existing team members, or recruit to fill the gap. Often, training is the best option: Not only is it usually cheaper, you also know more about the individual's talents and working methods. On the downside, a newly trained person usually has plenty of theory, but lacks the experience of putting that training into practice.

Recruitment often takes a very long time (time to agree the role internally, advertise it, screen resumes, interview candidates, select, wait for notice periods to be served, train the individual in organizational methods, and so on) and can be very expensive. It is also risky: Even using the best interviewing and testing methods, it's possible for candidates to cover up failings that only become obvious once someone's been in a role for several months.

Tip 2:

A useful piece of advice handed down from generation to generation of manager is to "never underestimate the value of team spirit, motivation and hard work". (This advice usually also concludes "And never over-estimate people's knowledge and understanding".)

Tip 3:

However if someone is letting the team down, you need to be active in managing this. Non-performers set a poor example to the team, and block performance of activities that are essential for success.

Make sure that you talk to the person who is failing to perform to make them aware of the situation. And make sure that you quickly understand and remove any blocks on performance. Give a controlled number of short but fair opportunities to perform as required (being "hard nosed" about this, correcting a situation bears results much more quickly than recruiting new team members). However, if performance doesn't improve to satisfactory levels, then the non-performer needs to be moved off the team.

Briefing Each Team Member

Having decided which team member will fill each role, you have to communicate the decision to your team.

Each team member should know his or her position within the team. The roles of each person should be clearly defined, with individual responsibilities, authority and accountability clearly spelled out (it's often best to do this in writing).

A hint to remember is that no member of your team should be thinking:

  • What are we here for?
  • What are we supposed to do?
  • What part can I play?

Tip 4:

Keep your team lean, but make sure you have back-ups or substitutes for key roles. It is important to have 'a few good people' rather than have 'too many people'. But remember to have back-ups in case you lose key people.

Tip 5:

Research shows that diverse teams can be more successful than teams with a very similar background. People in diverse teams bring different experiences, are less prone to "group-think" and tend to suffer less from the conflicts that can arise when

(That said, be careful with some of the team design schemes in common use – the research base for some them is quite weak).

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