Assigning Responsibility

Authored by George Zack, President Two Harbors Consulting

– As we have set for the question, “can the frameworks you utilize for business process improvement be leveraged for your personal life,” we will now start to explore that in detail.  In this series of posts, I will work through each of the elements of a what the Capability Maturity Model (CMMI) considers a managed or defined process.  The goal of this series is to provoke thought how the elements of such generic practices are not only applicable to business, but can have bearing on your personal life.  By tying these practices to you personally, I believe it will drive a greater understanding in how they are to be applied in the business setting.

The fourth generic practice is “assign responsibility.”  The model tells us the purpose of this practice is:  The purpose of this generic practice is to ensure that there is accountability for performing the process and achieving the specified results throughout the life of the process. The people assigned must have the appropriate authority to perform the assigned responsibilities.”

It might seem that in personal improvement endeavors this is fairly obvious:  it is a personal endeavor so you simply assign responsibility to yourself.  If you are pursuing a personal health goal like running a 10k, it is up to you to lace up the shoes every day, get out the door and beat the streets.  If you are looking to become credentialed in some professional regard or be awarded a degree, the responsibility of performing the work, the studies, and getting the paperwork done to get that done falls on your shoulders.

But while a large share of the responsibility in looking to manage your personal improvement process may indeed be yours to manage,  there are clearly many other stakeholders that you are likely consider.  Maybe you have a personal trainer to get you ready for that competition.  Or perhaps you have someone paying for that tuition.  Or if you are a family person and you need time to get that MBA, you need to coordinate with those loved ones to determine who is cooking dinner on what nights or watching the kids.  They have responsibilities you are likely going to want to have “assigned” if you want the pursuit of your personal goal to be successful, and as the model calls it – managed.

On face value, it might seem that assignment of responsibility for personal improvement activities is easier than those we encounter in business.  I’d state that it is probably harder.  In our business relationships, assignments are usually well aligned with a person/role.  V&V activities for example are to go to the staff in your test department.  Maybe definition of your requirements goes to your product owner or product manager.  There are usually fairly well defined paths to consider as to who gets assigned what work.

And more importantly, because there are typically multiple parties engaged in the effort, if you have clearly assigned who is responsible, there is a community that drives some degree of engagement.  If I don’t perform my assigned tasks or job duties in a work setting, all my team knows that and hence that holds me accountable to some degree.  In personal improvement, if I skip a run or bag a workout – no one knows except me and the man in the mirror.  It can become easy to become less accountable when you are just assigning responsibility to yourself (and hence this is why coaches are often a key to success).