FirstCuts Issue 9.0

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High-Stake Interventions — New Ideas Issue 9
March 15, 2007

Delegating in Caribbean Companies (part 2)
by Francis Wade


A few weeks ago in Jamaica, there was a riot at the construction
site of a hotel being built by a Spanish hotel conglomerate:
the Fiesta Hotel Group.

The bottom line was that a worker was shot, cars were burned,
offices were looted and work was suspended for almost two weeks.

Now and then I receive a reminder that our work in the region can
have very dramatic results, and that when we discuss ideas such as
those we tackle in FirstCuts it is not just a matter of
intellectual interest, but also a matter of doing work that
impacts the lives of workers, families and communities.

Until next month,


Delegating in Caribbean Companies (part 2)

In last month’s issue of FirstCuts, I wrote about the need for
regional executives to think deeply about the process they use to
turn over accountabilities to new direct reports. I mentioned the
need for executives to systematize the work they do so that it can
be captured and passed on effectively.

In that issue, I discussed the need for Caribbean executives to
produce a “turnover document” for every new accountability. In
addition to writing such a document, they must also create ways to
progressively delegate the content of a new job. (To see the prior
edition of FirstCuts, visit

In this issue, we describe the way in which we have worked with
executives to produce the critical content included in a turnover
document. Once the document is produced, we advocate a phased
turnover of tasks to ensure that learning takes place.

More on Turnover Documents

While turnover documents might include all kinds of important
details about a job, at the heart of them is a list of key
activities. These activities are discovered by breaking down the
job into three tiers, as follows:

= Tier 1 consists of a list of top-level Results to be produced
= Tier 2 consists of the Targets to be reached to accomplish each
= Tier 3 consists of the individual Tasks that must be performed to
hit each target

An example of the breakdown of results, targets, and tasks (i.e.,
the elements that make up a job) for a sales manager might be as

= Result: $100 million revenue increase

That result might be broken down into two targets:

= Target 1: Motivate top salespeople to increase sales by 20% each
= Target 2: Create new sales of $10 million for new product X

Each of the two targets outlined above can be further broken down
into tasks to produce the following:

= Target 1: Motivate top salespeople to increase sales by 20% each
– Task 1.1: Coach each salesperson to manage time better
– Task 1.2: Look at top prospects and determine a way to enter
their network of friends and colleagues

= Target 2: Create new sales of $10 million for new product X
– Task 2.1: Create a list of features and benefits for product X
– Task 2.2: Test new product X with five customers in a focus group

Ideally, this cascade of results, targets, and tasks should all be
prepared in the turnover document for a new manager before he or
she ever takes the job.

However, once the information has been adequately developed, it
would be a mistake to dump the turnover documents into the lap of
the new manager. This is a trap into which many impatient
executives fall, hoping that a well-written document telling a new
manager what to do is all that the new manager needs to be

Our research shows that the best executives do things differently—
they actually use the turnover documents in phases that coincide
with the ability of the new manager to learn the job.

A Phased Turnover

The safest assumption for executives to make is that new managers
know little or nothing about the new job and that they cannot be
trusted to undertake it successfully. In the beginning, they should
assume that on the new manager’s first day, the executive is
responsible for getting 100% of the job done, and this number can
only be decreased as the new manager’s capabilities increase.

We recommend that executives start the reduction from 100%
gradually—and that they first delegate tasks, then targets, and,
finally, results.

For example, Task 1.1 in the above sales manager turnover document
involved the need for the manager to coach salespeople in managing
their time. While new sales managers may have generic coaching
skills, they probably would not yet know the intricacies of the
salesperson-to-sales-manager relationship. They would not yet
appreciate the time pressures that salespeople face or the
successful coaching techniques that managers before them had used.

This information, if passed on by a prior executive, can make all
the difference in learning this new skill.

Once a crucial set of tasks has been mastered, the executive can
then decide that the next objective would be to delegate a
particular target. Once the target is mastered by the new manager,
it can be delegated. The same applies to the third tier of the job:

In this way, the manager’s competency grows gradually but steadily,
guided at different phases by the turnover document.

However, something else is happening while a new manager is
becoming more proficient. The executive’s confidence in the
manager’s ability, so critical to the process of delegation,
steadily grows.

As it grows, the executive is increasingly able to supervise the
manager through periodic written or verbal reports, and the
executive can trust that he or she will be brought in by the
manager when help is truly needed. Less of the executive’s precious
time is therefore needed.

It’s worth repeating that executives must resist the temptation to
impatiently walk away from this phased process before the new
managers are ready, or before their confidence level is where it
should be. The results of doing so can be disastrous.

What executives need to know is that this process is not designed
to bury them in a world of micromanagement. Instead, they should
understand that the time commitment involved is very different from
what they might expect from their own past experience.

A Different Time Commitment

As the executive engages in this process of turning over tasks,
targets, and results to the new manager, the time required by the
process can vary greatly from day to day.

When a new element or skill is being taught, the executive must be
prepared to spend a great deal of time helping the manager to
understand the details. This kind of hands-on coaching can only be
done in person, although it can be facilitated by the existence of
a good turnover document.

In most cases, questions from the new manager require some
thinking, and executives may decide to update the turnover document
on the spot, as they remember what is truly needed to execute the
job effectively.

Over time, however, the time spent up front more than pays off in
the manager’s increased capabilities, and when the job is properly
delegated, the executive can effectively forget about it. When a
new task, target, or result is chosen as the next item to be
delegated, the intense time involvement starts again.

This sawtooth pattern of time commitment is quite different from
the everyday process that we’ve observed.

Our experience tells us that busy executives who hire new managers
typically hand them little more than a job description. They try to
spend time with the manager in the beginning, squeezing in time
between other existing commitments.

In short order, a crisis hits and the executive becomes too busy to
spend time to ask anything more than, “Is everything fine?”

When the manager (who, at this point, is undertrained and ill
prepared) experiences a significant failure, however, the executive
is ready to swoop in to firefight and control the damage. The
executive does what many executives do best—which is to save the
day, using considerable time and energy.

The new manager feels like a bit of a fool. The executive’s trust
begins to waiver, and he or she watches the manager more closely.

More failures occur, and the firefighting continues until either
the manager learns through trial and error or the executive loses
patience and fires or ostracizes the manager.

In one regional company, an executive explained that he “could not
be expected to keep the person on board because he was taking too
much of my time … and, after all, no one spent that kind of time
with me when I had that same job.”

This executive didn’t realize that the manager’s shortfall was
actually the executive’s failure—he had done little to prepare the
new manager to be successful.

Failures and Feedback

Even in the best of circumstances, however, failures do occur. At
this point, executives must be ready to step in to avert serious
problems. Rather than coming in like a hurricane, blowing away the
credibility and confidence of the new manager, the executive should
instead go back to the drawing board with the manager and reexamine
the turnover document.

Frequently, the seeds of the failure can be found here—in poor
turnover timing, inadequate definitions, and incomplete training.
In the most extreme cases, the executive must be prepared to step
in and re-assume responsibility for items that had previously been
turned over.

For example, in the case of the sales manager, if there is a sudden
rise in complaints about salespeople being late or a surge in
missed appointments, then the executive may decide to resume
coaching the salespeople and subject the sales manager to further

The difference here is that the feedback is used to surgically
reverse the turnover, retrain the manager, and develop the manager
to the point where the turnover can once again be undertaken.


The bottom line is simple: make turnover documents an integral part
of your company’s culture, and you will empower your managers to be
successful from the very beginning.


P.S. I had promised that I would address the question of why
entrepreneurs and small business owners also need turnover
documents in this issue. I found that the content would not fit
this issue, so instead I have picked up the topic in my blog at
this entry:

Useful Stuff

Tips, Ads and Links
I referred to Michael Gerber’s book in this Issue. His website is also filled with information:, most of it geared towards entrepreneurs. The ideas that I have extracted for this issue are at the heart of his approach.

Back Issues of FirstCuts can be found at

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