Friday, February 11, 2011

Taking Ownership and Responsibility

On the first day into my first job as a CA newly selected into a MNC, I was asked to have a preliminary chat with the HOD and made to sit in a waiting area the whole day (while they figured out what to do with me, I guess). I used the time to talk up with a few people working there and got an understanding of what that department does. As I was also doing a course in system design at that time, I applied my newly learned skills to draw up a DFD for the department (with a lot of assumptions - it was my first day after all) and waited for the HOD to be free, well after office hours. When I finally got a chance to see him, we were discussing my work for the day well into the night. The next day, I was made the liaison between this function and IT and given the responsibility of delivering these IT functionalities to meet the needs of the function. Within six months, I had independent charge of a section along with its Trial Balance under my ownership.

Nobody made these decisions for me to decide what I should do with my time. When you take your decisions on what to do in your immediate area of work, it facilitates the organisation to decide what to do with your skills and talents.

Now, look around in your environment and answer the question - Who takes the decisions around here? Especially on issues pertaining to the work area in your KRA. If the answer is anybody other than yourself, prepare yourself for a lifetime of junior management roles.

Often times there is a mistaken belief people hold that somebody else is responsible for running this company, (why not extend it to running this country, this household, this community, this life and so on). Ultimately it is the people who make the company what it is and are responsible for the environment, culture, ethics, values that exist. If you work with the intention of simply following what is brought in front of you in terms of rules and processes, that's what you will remain - a follower. What is needed is a mindset that is constantly exploring and questioning.

I am by no means suggesting being disruptive and refusing to follow rules. Follow the process by all means to achieve the organisation's goal, but question first and foremost if it is the right thing to do, if it is the most efficient way to do it and whether there does not exist a better way of achieving the same result. If we keep on doing what we did yesterday, there would be no growth, right?

Now that we have established we are the owner of the environment around us, we can proceed to explore how to ensure we remain in charge of making the decisions around this environment. Because along with ownership comes responsibility. The responsibility to make decisions.

Let us differentiate which decisions are in our power to make and which are out of bounds for us. There is certain authority which is handed down in top-bottom approach, which is inviolable. Going beyond this authority and taking a decision is not legal in most cases. But these are not the kind of decisions we are talking about here.
We are talking about decisions in the area of work entrusted to us. I have seen far too many examples of people taking every step in their daily work only after a confirmation of their higher-ups. Even where it is not warranted and represents an impingement on the time and efforts of their supervisor and a loss of productive time for their organisation.

There are instances where common sense and not your supervisor should give you the answer on what to do with the task in front of you. What prevents people from taking this path is -
- Fear of going wrong
- Lack of skills
- Lack of initiative
- Not seeing the big picture
- Not able to visualize what lies ahead
- Authoritative bosses
- Laziness, shirking work, procrastination
- Feeling that things will take care of themselves

Take your pick. If you feel I have left out some reasons why you don't take decisions, leave a comment below and I will add it to this list. :)

Seriously, these are the obstacles to nothing but your own growth. Nothing and no one will be affected by your not taking decisions as much as yourself. Because the last point in the list is actually true. Things will indeed take care of themselves. If you do not act, someone else will grab the initiative. But it will be his/her initiative and not yours. And it was your opportunity and not his/hers in the first place.