Every organization has administrative work. It needs to be done and done right even if it is not directly touching the customer, creating value, or saving resources.
Administrative work can be characterized as work that follows a prescriptive process to produce a predictable result and a predefined value to the organization.
Do your job, your whole job and nothing but the job because there is no extra in it for you or the company.
While we all recognize administrative work, we often do not recognize when non-administrative work takes on an administrative tone, task and talent. When this happens work that used to be exciting, value based and action oriented suddenly feels more like administrivia
Nowhere is that possibility greater than in IT where most of the work is action oriented, but enough of it is administrative to cause the same person to do both kinds of work.
This point came home to me when I was sitting in a meeting and listening to a speaker drone on discussing the specific approach they were going to follow on a project.
She was telling the people in the meeting exactly how she was going to do the work, in great detail.
When asked about how she was going to get results, she came back to the specific steps, repeating them like an incantation, as if simply saying the words meant that the result would happen.
Latter after the meeting I raised this point with her 1:1. She said ‘Oh if that is what I said, then that is not what I meant.” She then proceeded to say how she would get the result in terms that were based on understanding the issues and actions rather than reciting the process recipe.
That got me thinking, when do you know you are being administrative rather than action oriented? Here are a few thoughts. You are being administrative when you:
- Put process before outcome/result, the result is why you are dong the process so it should come first
- Use process as the answer to a question, even more so when it’s the answer to every question
- See the process as overcoming human and situational challenges like differing skills sets, weak executive support, unclear objectives and the like
- Draw their authority, power or influence from the process rather than from the result they are trying to get. The process may give you temporary authority, but it is only vested in those that get results.
An old customer of mine, back when I was a commercial banker, told me something that has always stuck with me.
“People write checks”
What he was saying was the people do things, not processes, nor systems. When we become administrative we lose sight of that and we lose the ability to get results.
So next time you find yourself talking about process, using it as a shield against questions and a sword to coerce your peers, ask yourself am I being administrative or action oriented.
Then adjust accordingly.