You’ve made a decision. Before you take action, do these three things to help you coordinate tasks effectively and efficiently
Coordination is the essential bridge between decisions and action. When you coordinate, you organize and assign tasks to fulfill the directive of what’s been decided, and so the actions that follow are smooth and complete. Too often, however, organizational professionals pay scant attention to this vital transitional step. When that happens, results can be jeopardized and relationships among collaborators can be undermined.
Effective coordination hinges on good planning, the wise allocation of assignments and resources, and excellent communication. Ideally, the conclusion of this phase of work should enable you to say: “We have determined what needs to happen. We have assigned tasks to people who are prepared to do them well, and who are energized about the work ahead. We have the tools, resources, and support to proceed. We have a plan to guide actions, and have prepared for contingencies. We have the communication protocols in place to help us execute, learn, and adjust as needed. We are ready to go.”
Here are three important contributing components to make coordination even more effective and efficient.
Clear the path of competing priorities
The decision that has put in motion a future course of action may not account for everything else that’s happening in the organization. In addition, even when people say “yes” to the decision, they may have competing priorities.
As part of the coordination phase, approach those whom you’ll need to take action on behalf of the decision. Then, skillfully inquire about what may be going on for each person. Probe to learn about:
- Concurrent work activities that may compete for the person’s attention
- Time commitments that mean the person may not be available for meetings or key activities
- Hesitations the person may have about lending enthusiastic energy to the work ahead
- The conditions that may be necessary for the person to give time and attention to contribute actively
Repeat this inquiry process with anyone whose support is vital to enact the decision. Then, make a plan to address the competing priorities, so you aren’t surprised by them as work gets underway.
Assign tasks in a way the energizes performers and delivers the results you need
As you look at your project plan and determine who might be charged with certain assignments, seize the opportunity to elicit the best contributions from each person.
To do that, use an asset-focused, strengths-based approach. Think about what each task requires, and then consider the current and emergent strengths that each team member might contribute:
- What do they love to do?
- What gives them energy?
- What are they especially good at, such that when they’re doing it, they have ample stamina and interest?
- Could this project help them to develop certain strengths? Which ones?
By gathering this information, you can determine how to allocate tasks in a way that energizes, enlivens, and enriches the work ahead—and supports your team members to learn and grow.
Understand what really happens when you make a request and the other person says yes
When you assign tasks, you will be engaging others in a potent, but too often poorly understood, set of “speech acts” that involve requests, responses, and promises. It’s vital to comprehend what they entail so you can achieve the results you seek—and keep the relationship strong every step of the way.
When you make a request, you are asking another person to do something, in a specific context, and according to an array of standards you hold—so that when the action is completed, you’ll be satisfied with the results.
When the other person responds “yes” (or makes a counteroffer that is acceptable to you), then they are making a promise to do what you’ve asked, according to agreed-upon terms of satisfaction. A promise is essentially a “contract” between you and the other person. If the other person breaks the promise, then you may request that the situation is made right.
Woven into this interaction are a host of other factors:
- presumptions of trustworthiness and goodwill between you and the other person
- the expectation that the other person has the skills to do what you’ve asked
- the ability to coordinate and adjust should extenuating circumstances require.
There are specific steps in making an excellent request, and they require practice. But as you assign the work ahead, the essential messages are these:
- As the person making the request, it’s your responsibility to know specifically what you want done, how you want it done, by when, and any other terms you’ll require.
- The request you communicate should be complete and clear, so the other person’s response is predicated on an exact understanding of what you’ve requested, the context of your request, and the conditions that will satisfy your request.
- If you excel in making excellent requests, then you will lay the groundwork for smoother tasks ahead, even as you sustain and strengthen your working relationships.
The effective and efficient coordination of work provides significant opportunities to improve actions, strengthen relationships, reduce risks, and minimize rework. By attending to the three components outlined above—addressing competing priorities, assigning tasks well, and making excellent requests—you’ll build a stronger bridge between decision-making and action.
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