Monday, October 19, 2009

Can Do vs. Will Do

My friend and Taylor Business Group Coach Josh Peterson presented an idea at SMB Nation that I can't get out of my head.

The basic idea is this: Consider an employee's ability to get something done by considering a triangle whose sides represent
- The Process or Job
- Can Do ability
- Will Do attitude

The size of the triangle is limited by the length of any one side.

So where does your triangle fall short?

Once we get over the self-limiting belief that no one can do a job as well as we can, we discover that "Can Do" people are pretty easy to find. You should have a hiring process to verify that candidates meet specific requirements. This may even include tests of some kind.

It is very rare, but if you find yourself with someone who you thought "could do" but it turns out they can't do, your triangle will look like this:

Even bosses who are nice people and people-people will recognize that sometimes you have to get rid of employees or subcontractors because they just can't do the job. It's hard until it hurts enough in the wallet. Then we manage to fire people -- even if they are our friends.

The next piece over which you have some control is the Process. As you know, I love working on processes. Our company probably has more process than we need for seven people. If you are shy on processes, your triangle looks like this:

Caution: Just because you have a great process doesn't mean you're using it properly. You can say "All time has to be entered when you work the ticket." But if the technician doesn't follow the process, or becomes overwhelmed, then things begin to fall apart.

Assuming you have a process in place, the most common failure comes from people who Can Do but Don't Do. Like this:

The most common examples of this are sales people who just don't make calls and technicians who don't track their time. These people are taking your money and not doing what you pay them to do.

Now before you fire them all and go back to doing it all yourself, go re-read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. When you've got a winning process and a qualified employee, there's a reason the job isn't getting done. And sometimes that's your fault as the manager / boss / employer / coordinator.

If someone just refuses to do their job, yes you should fire that person.

But it is much more likely that the person needs assistance understanding the process. Or perhaps they're overwhelmed. Perhaps the process is not scalable. Perhaps you removed support systems one at a time and went a little too far.

Tools like Autotask can help you develop great processes. But someone still has to learn them and get good at them.

We're in a position where we cut back some staff and then got busy. That left our primary technician with more work flowing in that he could process. The result is that he's falling down on the "will do" side. But it's not his fault. He wants to do, but there's more than he can humanly do.

The quick answer is to bring in a trained technician to take up the slack. The new tech Can Do and has the process. And while we patch that hole in the service department, I'm out looking for a permanent replacement. But I also have to make sure I have enough work to keep someone busy.

So the bottom line is that you can have a good solid process and a pretty stable "Can Do" component. But the triangle keeps changing in size. At least in a very small business, you're not likely to have three solid sides that don't grow or shrink over time.

And that gets us back to Michael Gerber. Delegation is not abdication. You need to stay tuned in and figure out how to keep things together as they evolve. Because in one way or another you're responsible for all three sides of the triangle. It's your process, they're you're people, and you control most of the variables that will allow them to be successful.


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1 comment:

  1. How is the Taylor Business Group working out?


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