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Earl Wilson

Corporate Coaching
Clarity, Perspective, Visibility, Growth - Realise Your Potential

Secrets of Effective Delegation - Monitoring W3s

W3 Review

If you don't know what a W3 is then please start at delegation secrets 1. If you already ready that article, then you'll know that W3s are a great crisp yet complete way of capturing the three essential ingredients of a delegated task:

  1. What exactly is the task being delegated, described in completion language
  2. When that task is due for completion
  3. Who carries the responsibility for completing that task to that deadline

W3s are great - don't leave home without them. But don't expect them to single-handedly change your organisation either. As mathematicians sometimes say, they're "necessary but not sufficient". In other words, you need them - but you need other things too.

If A Tree in a Wood Falls Down...

A W3 - written down, is no good if no-one reads it. A W3 is no good if the owner reads it, smiles and carries on with important Facebook duties. W3s are only useful if they are understood, accepted, respected, reviewed and maintained, and that's what this article is about.

Changing Corporate Cultures

What we're talking about is no less than changing corporate cultures, and that can only be done very carefully. Let's look at some common scenarios.

Mostly, attempts to change things end fairly quickly in a slump back into the old regime. Employees see management initiatives as "flavour of the month" - to be nodded at and forgotten.

With each repetition of this cycle, credibility in the possibility of change is damaged, resistance becomes endemic and organisations become rigid, brittle, and finally - outside competition from more flexible organisations smashes them into dust.

So, you've introduced W3s, and you're at the top of the steep part of the curve - doing it The New Way - and you will want to avoid the slump back down to casual disregard for commitments and deadlines.

You do this by focusing hard and often on the new ways, immediately after the change, and for a time afterwards. Where shortfalls happen, they must be noticed and addressed, as it becomes clear that the old way will no longer be tolerated, intervention points can be less frequent and a new culture beds in.

So what does this mean for you and your team at work each day? Well, the exact implications will vary depending on your organisation and its current cultural level, but it will mean most of the following things:

  • Delegated tasks are always expressed as W3s. Where W-s. W1s, or W2s are found, they are pounced on and corrected by the team leader initially, and later by all team members as people recognise that this is nothing more than common sense - whose absence is simply daft.
  • A W3 format is universally adopted within the team. It could be a three-column table or a three-line bullet or a three field table in Access or Excel, but W3s become institutionalised in a common format whose presence or absence is instantly recognisable. As we'll see, you'll actually need more than three columns when working with real W3s.
  • W3s form a central part of organisational reporting. In written reports to superiors and external groups, W3s form the basic statements of intent and responsibilities. They are aggregated and perhaps abbreviated as they move up the organisational pyramid. In progress meetings, W3s are presented, respected and commented upon. Personal responsibility for making W3s what happen is universal.
  • W3s form a central tool for management of project plans. W3s may form the raw material for injection into PERT charts or other project scheduling systems. Missed W3s ("slips") are recorded and counted; a history is maintained. AN escalation procedure is used when W3s look vulnerable and when they fail.
  • W3s form a central part of performance reviewing. In job specs, maintenance of high quality W3s is stated as an essential requirement. In performance reviews W3s are on the table, being discussed. Badly maintained W3s will be documented at performance reviews.

In the real-working-world, W3s will be a little more complex:

CW Publish delegation article 2 about W3 monitoring 03JUN08 31MAY08


  • The What is written in "completion language". I have specified that real end-point I care about - not some interim step which isn't quite completion. So, I didn't say "Work on ... article" - because that could go on forever. Nor did I say "Complete ... article" - because it's not the article's completion I care about, it's the publication; also - publication is an event which either happened or didn't - whereas completion is up for argument. Was it spell-checked? Did it contain X, Y and Z?
  • The current When is when we currently expect it to be done. This changes in light of events, but whenever presented, should always be the real, current plan - and therefore - never in the past.
  • The original When is kept as a record of the original plan and how far things have slid.
  • Slip count is how many times a deadline has been moved.
  • Notes will explain points of interest in the plan which are not otherwise apparent.

Lighten Up!

If all of that sounds draconian, dictatorial or unfriendly, then try to see W3s in context in the workplace.

In a well-led team, W3s will have been jointly agreed by their owner and their manager. Both will have contributed and both will be happy with the current plan.

Slipped deadlines are not synonymous with incompetence or panic - though they will always be of interest. There are all kinds of reasons why things don't go to plan. Organisations should learn from those experiences, and organisational and individual improvement opportunities will arise.

W3s should take their place in Common Sense Organisations, along with teamwork, mutual respect, empowerment, having fun, growing personally and organisationally, doing great things, and making money.

People who want to do well, will thrive in efficient, effective meritocracies. People who don't may prefer the public sector.



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