Look at the Job Description

Chapter 3 Pg’s 65-66 Lead With Love By: Gerry Czarnecki

 Why create a job description? The staff knows what to do; why waste the time? This is the classic argument against the disciplined effort to organize job requirements. Henry Mintzberg in his classic book on organization made the case for a disciplined process and structure so as to make certain that every staff member knows what to do.


Standardization of work content is a very tight coordinating mechanism. Firemen cannot stop each time they arrive at a fire to figure out who will attach the hose to the hydrant and who will go up the ladder; similarly, airline pilots must be sure about their landing procedures well in advance of descent.


Once the system or process is understood and once you have determined the process is the correct process, then you, the leader, must know and understand the components of the jobs. For each job, you need to ask questions such as:


! What actually must be done by the person?


! Is the work manual, or is it a “knowledge worker” job that requires more to be done in the head than with the hands?


! What are the working hours of the job?


! When is the output required?


! How much am I permitted to pay for the right person?


! Where does the person need to work: at home or in the office?


! Is there specific knowledge required?


! Are there special skills required?


The list goes on and on. This job definition task is generally easier if the organization has made the commitment to write a position description. However, even with a job description, you will probably need to ask many critical questions about each job. Job descriptions have a way of becoming out of date almost the first month after they are written. They may not represent reality even when they are brand new. Only you as the leader can determine what the real job requirements are.


You may have no previous knowledge or experience with the jobs you need to assign. Whether the positions are vacant or not, however, you still must evaluate the jobs for their specific duties and performance requirements. This may be more important when the jobs are filled than when they are vacant. A job filled by the wrong person doing the wrong tasks can be more of a problem than one not filled at all. Each leader must look at each job and understand the nature and requirements of the job. If you are blessed with a great performer in a job, then make certain the incumbent is accomplishing the tasks listed in the job description. Frequently, a great performer will be performing tasks that are not in the job description or doing them very differently from the job description.


Many jobs are created by the person filling them. When we replace a person, we may find the newcomer is failing because the newcomer is only doing the job in the job description, not the job that her predecessor was actually doing. If new associates have this problem, their salvation could be to find the old incumbent and get some counsel. If that is impossible, then they, and you, may need to go back to the process and find out how this job fits into the “bigger picture.” This is type of exercise should never be foisted on a new associate. It is the leader’s duty to resolve the confusion long before the new associate arrives. If you cannot do that, then at least give the newcomer some time and understanding until you both can redefine the job.

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