As all marketing companies, some of our projects fail. But as all good companies, we try to understand – the reasons – and more importantly – the patterns – behind our failed projects. One of the patterns that we identified revolved around ‘taking ownership’ of the projects. I am sure a lot of companies – small and large have identified the same problem. For the longest time though, I could not clearly tell my team, what I meant by ‘taking ownership’. I told them about ‘being accountable for the project’. ‘taking responsibility of tasks’, ‘seeing every task through’, ‘Making things happen’ and so on. But in my heart I knew that this was a vague feedback. I mean, there wasn’t anything immediately actionable about this feedback that I was giving my team.
The problem of taking ownership
We continued working. We continued succeeding and we continued failing. We continued to observe the failure of ‘taking ownership’ as one of our patterns. And I really started thinking about what is it about that ‘owners’, that make their minds different from the others involved in the project.
I may have stumbled upon one important, actionable feedback that I recently gave my team. I told them to ‘take decisions’. Don’t wait for someone else to take decisions for you, be proactive and ‘take decisions’.
As Tim Ferris says, “It is always better to take actions and say sorry later, than not taking actions at all.”
Of course I did not ask them to take decisions without capturing all the data. But in day-to-day business, very few decisions are based on data. And those which are, are easy decisions to take. However, a lot of decisions cannot be based on data. They are instinctive. You just look at something, and you know whether a particular thing is going to work. Those are the kind of decisions I wanted my team to take, individually. And if those decisions, were wrong, I asked them to be ready to face the music. But there are clear instructions that ‘No one would be fired, even if we lose a customer, because of a wrong decision that you take’.
I have eliminated the process of approvals. No one gets anything approved from me any more. And I am not sending any client delivery which I have not worked on. My team members are expected to send their own deliveries, and explain the reasons behind those deliveries to the client.
Of course, not all deliveries are perfect. And there is rework, quite often. Sometimes the client gets frustrated and asks me to intervene. I console him, and then we go back to my team members sending their deliveries to the client. The worst thing that can happen in this scenario is that we will lose out on a couple of customers. But the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
Now my team members are learning, faster than ever before. And I have a lot of free time to think about how we take the company to the next level. If you think, ’taking ownership’ is a problem that your company is facing too, I suggest you try this out. Ask your team to take their own decisions, back them up and see the magic. 🙂