Hi All, my Director just sent me, and the rest of the management team, a copy of the doctrine of completed staff work, which I have copied below.

I remember reading this in a forward when I was an individual contributor a few years ago, and did not quite agree with it then. Now that I am in Management, I love the principle and idea of receiving complete project only in need of my final action.... yet I am still not sure I agree with it.

In summary:
[list]When working on an assigned task, your duty is to complete the task to the best of your ability without the aid of management. It is your job as an individual contributor to make it work. Only go to management when you have a completed actionable deliverable for the Manger to approve or utilize. [/list:u]
Where I am hung up is the question: Is a manager in place to support their employees, or are the employees in place to support the manager?

While I would love to focus on bigger picture issues rather than walking my staff through issues, as the doc said “It is so easy to ask the manager what to do, and it appears so easy for the manager to answer. Resist the impulse.” am I encouraging bad behavior, acting as a crutch? Should I help when I can, or through a bit of tough love, push them to discover the answers for themselves? Is a Manager there to mentor and train, or must they learn on there own.?

I know this is not as black and white as I have indicated, yet this is really making me think that I should step back and let the team do its thing.

What are your thoughts?

-Ippie

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Completed staff work is the study of a problem and indicates the presentation of a solution, with alternatives, to the manager, so that all that remains to be done on the part of the manager is to indicate approval or disapproval of the completed action. The words "completed action" are emphasized because the more difficult the problem is, the more the tendency is to present the problem and recommended action to the manager in piecemeal fashion. It is your duty as a staff member to work out details. You should not consult the manager in the determination of those details, no matter how perplexing they may be. You may and should consult other staff members. The product, whether it involves the pronouncement of a new policy or affects an established one, should, when presented to the manager, represent the best thinking of you and other staff members.
The impulse, which often comes to the inexperienced individual to ask the manager what to do, recurs more often when the problem is difficult. It is accompanied by a feeling of mental frustration. It is so easy to ask the manager what to do, and it appears so easy for the manager to answer. Resist the impulse. You will succumb to it only if you do not know your job. It is your job to advise your manager what he or she ought to do, not to ask what you ought to do. Your job is to study, write, and rewrite until you have evolved a single proposed action -- the best of all the alternatives you have considered. Your manager merely approves or disapproves.

Do not burden your manager with long explanations and memoranda. Writing a memorandum to your manager does not constitute completed staff work, but writing a memorandum for your manager to send to someone else does. Your views should be placed before the manager in finished form so the manager can use them to achieve results. They should be a single document prepared for the manager's signature or action, without accompanying comment. If the manager wants comment or explanation, he or she will ask for it.

The theory of the completed staff work does not preclude a "rough draft", as long as the rough draft is not be a half-completed idea. It must be complete in every respect, except that a rough draft must not be used as an excuse for shifting to the manager the burden of formulating the action.

The completed staff work practice may result in more work for you, yet it results in more freedom for the manager and accomplishes the following:
• The manager is protected from half-baked ideas, voluminous memoranda, and premature verbal presentations.
• When you have a real idea to sell, you will find a ready market.
• You are insured recognition as having been the originator of the idea or a proposed action.
• Because of effective preparation, the idea or proposal is more certain to work because its disadvantages as well as its advantages will have been considered, and appropriate action taken to avoid potential problems.

When you have completed your staff work, the final test is this: Are you willing to stake your professional reputation on the quality of this presentation? If you were the manager, would you be willing to sign this prepared paper and stake your professional reputation on its being right?

If the answer is negative, take it back and work it over, because it is not yet completed staff work.

Completed Staff Work

I like the idea of getting completed work, without intermittent questions and guidance. Of course, for this to work, I would expect a project to be completed a week or so in advance (depending on size) to be able to make changes/corrections.

This gives YOU as manager an opportunity to possibly gather new thoughts and viewpoints on issues which you probably have already taken a side. New information and viewpoints can remove prejudice and allow the path to take a different twist from what you imagined - and that may be a good thing!

As part of the staff, it's terribly difficult to not be able to talk with your manager on this regarding ideas until complete. However, if you work with the staff regularly through O3's to ensure they have the skills necessary to complete the job, feedback to support them, and the recognition upon completion of a project, they will fall into place and be happy to be able to do their job in a way that makes them feel EMPOWERED.

Good luck!

Completed Staff Work

Thinking about this more last night, my take is that team members must be at a relatively high level of professional maturity to be expected to preform at the level set in the completed staff work doctrine. I feel it would not be fair to hold a Jr. staff member to the standard when they are still in need of much coaching and development.

That being said, completed staff work should be the goal of all team members. I feel that I have some members on my staff that can preform at this level, and others that need more growth to be able to operate on their own.

Stewart, I would agree with you on requiring work to be completed in advance. On that note, for completed staff work to be effective, the manager must clearly define expectations, and likely require regular completed deliverables (small-chunks) to ensure that the staff member does not vere off track.

-Ippie

Completed Staff Work

[quote="Ippie"]Thinking about this more last night, my take is that team members must be at a relatively high level of professional maturity to be expected to preform at the level set in the completed staff work doctrine. I feel it would not be fair to hold a Jr. staff member to the standard when they are still in need of much coaching and development.

That being said, completed staff work should be the goal of all team members. I feel that I have some members on my staff that can preform at this level, and others that need more growth to be able to operate on their own.

Stewart, I would agree with you on requiring work to be completed in advance. On that note, for completed staff work to be effective, the manager must clearly define expectations, and likely require regular completed deliverables (small-chunks) to ensure that the staff member does not vere off track.

-Ippie[/quote]

Ippie-

Also, treat it as a positive, and your staff will respond in kind. After a short period of time (a few projects or a couple of months), they will see it as the norm rather than the exception to the rule. New hires will catch on quickly, and will come to enjoy this situation.

Again, employees like feeling empowered to make decisions and reach conclusions. Especially when they are right, and told that on a regular basis.

Good luck!

Completed Staff Work

Thanks for the advice Stewart. I like your approach of holding the team to the higher standard, which consequently will require that the more junior level members raise to the occasion.

Plus, it is, as you mentioned in an earlier post, empowering when they succeed.

Thanks,

Ippie

Completed Staff Work

Folks-

Please be advised that the Doctrine of Completed Staff Work is a military concept. Military staffs, and how they work with commanders, is QUITE different, in certain ways, from a civilian enterprise. The doctrine wasn't meant to be translated into a civilian construct, at least in part because staff work in general was conducted quite formally at the time of its "publishing".

The subtleties aren't really on point here, but suffice it to say that the author never intended for a civilian manager to use it to justify a lack of coaching or direction or communication with a boss.

More to the point, I think your boss is saying (please, this is a little tongue in cheek), "I'm a High D. I don't want to 'work with' you. I want you to do your jobs so well and thoroughly that I don't have to think about what you're doing. Please only ask for guidance when really necessary, and don't expect to be chatting me up all the time - I'm too busy for that. The highest praise I can give you is not talking to you."

So, forget the doctrine and get busy, and be clear and brief and thorough and deliver him results without too many questions.
Mark

Completed Staff Work

If a boss expects results without engaging with the team, the team doesn't need the Boss.