I've learned quite a bit over my 15+ years in the workforce. One of the things that I've learned is that the more people you assign tasks to, the less chance you have of the work actually getting done. In fact, every person you add to task list will continue to decrease the chances of success.
It kind of seems like it would go the other way around, wouldn't it? Simple logic says that if you have something you need done, and you ask a group of people to do it, that you're increasing the chances that someone has the knowledge, the ability, and the time.
While all that may be true, what it doesn't address is that by asking multiple people to complete a task, you're taking away accountability, and that is the key component that trumps any of the other variables I mentioned.
Simply put, if you assign a task to one person, you're putting the accountability on that person. If you assign it to a group, you're putting the accountability on….nobody.
I'll admit, I'm guilty of engaging in this behavior when the tables are turned. Just yesterday, someone sent an e-mail to me and four other people who were involved in a project asking a question and requesting action. If it had been sent just to me, I probably would have given it immediate attention and taken care of it, or at least responded back saying that I would get to it, and give them a timetable of when they could expect a response.
As it was, I was in the middle of something else, so I simply reasoned that I would check back on this when I was done, hoping that somebody else would step in.
For this particular circumstance, someone did actually answer the question by the time I got back to it. I was off the hook!
Now, in my defense, I was legitimately busy, but I know darn well that other people will employ this duck-and-dodge strategy anytime the opportunity presents itself, regardless if they actually are busy or not! You know the type, I'm sure. (And, if you don't, then you're probably very much guilty of it yourself…just saying!)
So, I've found that if I want something done, the best approach is to involve one person. Even if that person doesn't have the knowledge, the ability, or the time, they should be able to direct you to someone that does, in which case you can transfer the task…and the accountability. The point being, that you're holding one person accountable for the task at all times. Depending on your environment, you might always be delegating to a manager, and even if he or she isn't doing the actual work, if you handle it right, they will always make sure the work gets assigned and done as long as it's clear that they are accountable for the work.
When it comes to assigning tasks, often less is more.
Readers, do you share my thought that assigning tasks with a narrow focus will yield better results? What are your real world experiences?