Direct responsibility affords effectiveness instead of the elusive efficiency gains supposed in slicing and dicing responsibility. But, when bureaucracy slices and dices responsibility into many intermediate pieces, it can be difficult for those at the bottom of the ranks to affect change. It would seem that changing the slicing and dicing would require buy in from the top.
While establishing direct responsibility benefits from everyone’s support, it’s not impossible without this support. Change can start with a single individual. Direct responsibility often entails expanding one’s responsibility. Unless of course you’re the one at the top, slicing and dicing. Then it’s a matter of learning to let go of the false sense of control that slicing and dicing provides.
Anyways, for everyone else not at the top, the best way to expand one’s responsibility, to get closer to the customer need and the customer result, is to take on more responsibility. When I hear that, I think of a grumpy old man shaking his stick at kids telling them they need to “Take Responsibility” for their actions. That’s not at all what I mean by taking on more responsibility.
I like to think of this as absorbing responsibility. Like an amoeba projecting itself to consume something nearby. If you’re an individual in this position, look at where you are now. Look at where customer needs come from and how results are created to meet those needs. Find where your responsibility currently fits in. And then reach out to get yourself closer to understanding the need and also delivering the results. If your responsibility is to establish needs, you may already have a direct connection to your customer. Reach out down the line toward delivering those results. If your responsibility is to deliver results, reach toward establish the need that led to those results.
Work to absorb more responsibility in the work you do. Take this bit by bit. For example, it’s pretty common in business for one person to take requests from customers, develop a plan of action and pass the plan to individuals to work on. This may be efficient in fast food, where fast is what people want, but in business the added layer of overhead in communication rarely pays any dividend and often just complicates things.
If you’re the one doing the work, ask if there are situations where you can try taking requests directly from customers. Ask for help and learn from those that have this responsibility. If you’re the one taking requests, see if there isn’t something of the work you can do yourself, along side the expertise of those that normally do the work. Again, ask for help and learn from those that have the responsibility now. No matter what position you’re in now, you might be surprised with the strengths you can exploit in expanding your responsibility.
In time, you can get to a point where you’re responsible for everything from need to result. Likely this means you’ll share that responsibility with others too. Nobody will be upset that you’ve asked to take on more responsibility, they’ll be happy to have someone have their back. And taking responsibility doesn’t mean they aren’t involved anymore, most of the time it means you’re working together.
Absorbing, or growing responsibility, is one means to establish an environment of direct responsibility.