A few weeks ago I had a conversation with my manager about an aspect of my job that has shifted recently. Where I used to be responsible for managing and reporting on a particular area of work, I’m now only required to have an overview. The work itself is now wholly covered by a highly competent, experienced manager supported by an excellent team.
The manager in question, being a sensible person with whom I get on very well, felt comfortable asking me this question; “What are you for?”
OK, I’m paraphrasing … obviously she was far more polite than that, but that was the core of the question. What is my role in this now? What am I for? What use am I to her, to her team, to anyone else, where this work is concerned? Have I become simply a corporate nosy parker, a winged monkey who swoops in and disrupts the team every so often with demands for information? Looks like I need to justify my existence here.
I gave this one some thought, because it is a very good question and I like to think I’m a fair minded person. What am I for? Historically my team has been responsible for any number of reporting regimes and schedules that now don’t exist. There’s a real danger that we’ll continue to do the same things we’ve always done, convinced that our colleagues need our support, when actually we’re just getting in the way. Am I adding any value at all?
It took a while, and several different coloured pens, but eventually I came up with this.
If the team is doing the work, and assuming there is some kind of external challenge from a regulatory body, representatives and so on, then we can be confident that a service is being provided and customers have some routes for redress if the service itself isn’t up to standard. What I provide is internal challenge, or to put it another way, irritation. Maybe I’m the speck of grit around which the pearl of continuous improvement is formed, or maybe I’m just a bloody nuisance, but I am necessary. I ask the questions that the team may be too busy to ask, and the external body doesn’t think of.
I’ll be the one saying, are we confident of the data? Can we prove it? Why do we report it this way? Are we sure this is the best way? Are we listening to customers? Do we change how we deliver if it doesn’t seem to be working?
Yep, that’s me. There you are just trying to do your job, and then I pop up and start lecturing you on why you’re doing it wrong. But let’s face it, it’s always so clear from the outside, isn’t it? Sometimes you need someone to think the unthinkable, question the unassailable, force you to justify what you do and how you do it. This is what I’m for, and – thank goodness – I work with intelligent and assertive people who are happy to do it right back at me.