Scope is a function of resources and time.  If the scope of what you’re trying to accomplish is too much to get done in a high quality way, you have to add resources, add time, or cut back the scope. In other words, say “no” to some of the less important items and non-value-adding steps.  Think in terms of your options for completing tasks:

  1. Do well yourself (Do)
  2. Do yourself, but just well enough
  3. Delegate and supervise (Manage)
  4. Delegate and trust (Lead)
  5. Do later
  6. Do never

Working harder is often counter-productive. As Simpler Consulting CEO Marc Hafer explained to me, the world is full of heroes who get in the way – the “bright, passionate, compassionate ones who are blinded by their passion.” They strive to “get it done” at any cost, not realizing the true cost is the diminished effort against other, higher value adding activities.

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In Hafer’s eyes, step one is figuring out which activities are actually valued by the end customer. You need to take into account stakeholders’ concerns and requirements along the way, but if you’re not defining true value in the end customer/patient/consumer’s eyes, you’re looking through the wrong lens.

With that in mind, more on your options:


Do well yourself

These are the things your end customer values most. You’re going to say no and downplay, delegate, cut back, and avoid other things so you can spend more time on these few, most critical activities. This is where you and your team need to strive for perfection. Doing well is an understatement. Here’s where it’s essential to do your absolute best.

Do yourself, but just well enough

You accept the need to do these things yourself. But they are not as important as some others. So, you should do them and do them well enough to satisfy the stakeholders that need them to fit into what they are doing for the end customer – and no better.

Delegate and supervise

The items you delegate and supervise are important. You want them done well, but there isn’t enough value in doing them yourself. Or perhaps, there are others who can do the work better than you. Either way, you care about these items enough to manage or supervise the work.

Delegate and trust

Items you delegate and trust are off your plate. This is where you are leading instead of managing. You trust the people you delegate to to do or manage them well. Your job here is to inspire and enable, never undercutting the authority you’ve delegated. They need authority, resources and accountability.

Do later

Things you decide to do later may get done eventually, but certainly not now. They are one step above the bottom rung and delaying them may cause stress with the people who need them now. That’s a choice you’ve made in pursuit of the highest value adding activities for the end customer.

Do never

Not only do you think these tasks are bad ideas for you and for people you might delegate to, but you also believe they are just bad ideas. Here’s your clearest “no.”  Not me. Not others. Not anyone. Now now. Not ever. Go away. (Harsh, but clear.)

The next time a task arises, ask yourself about the end value and then determine the best approach. That will vary with your level in the organization. The more senior you are in the organization and the more people you have to manage or lead, the fewer things you will actually do yourself well.

  • As a “do’er,” you’re trying to figure out which tasks you must do well, less well versus which things you can do later or never.
  • As a manager, your greatest leverage is in the tasks you can delegate and manage. This is how you free up time to spend your own time on the things you must do yourself well.
  • As a senior leader, your greatest leverage is in the tasks, projects, programs and priorities you can delegate and trust. You want to spend ever more time inspiring and enabling, leveraging purpose, frameworks and incentives.