Management Antipattern: Task Assignment by Accident, or Worse

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This is not the face you want your team to get familiar with

Short version: Assign tasks in a transparent manner

Generalized: Visibility to task definition, priority, and assignment allows for better organization of work

Ultra-specific request of managers: Watch out for duplication of effort, for the appearance of favoritism, for consistently discarded effort, for consistently changing priorities, and for consistently missed milestones despite people putting the work in. These are likely a result of task assignment problems.

This is a software engineering article.

For the moment, imagine you’re working in a bookstore:

  • You start to take an inventory of the reference section, and, while you step away for a short break, someone else starts the effort there from scratch.

You wouldn’t be surprised when milestones are missed. So why is the manager?

As a software engineer and former bookstore clerk, this analogy makes a lot of sense to me.

Does it to you?

Some advice to managers who need to assign tasks:

  • There is a temptation to assign tasks to the person who you speak to next or who is friendliest to you. Resist that temptation. Assign tasks by some qualifications below.

Who can do it best?

Who needs to learn this the most?

Whose responsibility is this?

  • Tasks should be assigned to build a team, not just accomplish the task.

Think of making an effective team as part of the task and bake that into the estimate.

  • Encourage teamwork. You want tasks one person is doing to benefit from the best ideas, and the support, of the team.

Going it alone and being resented for foisting unvetted work is not an ingredient for a good team.

  • Task delegation should be recursive. Anyone taking apart his or her own work and delegating it to others after you assign it that person should also use the precepts above.

Who am I?

As someone with over two decades of leadership experience in the tech world, I still make mistakes. I have a treasure trove of anti-patterns I’ve either seen or exercised myself.

In short, I know the good stories. Don’t assume my stories are from my current place of employment. Odds are they are not.

I’m a senior data engineer experienced in Python and various SQL flavors, a process improver, a leader/manager, and someone who wants employee experiences to improve.

I hope you enjoy reading the articles in the Leadership Anti-Pattern series as much I enjoy writing them.

Resident of Frogpondia.

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