Communication; Motivation; Time Management and Personal Effectiveness

if yoU waNt tHiNGs doNe well . . .

Primary Topic—Delegation

Additional Topics—Communication; Motivation; Time Management and Personal Effectiveness

John Miller, manager of laundry and linen for City Medical Center, dreaded the one day each month he had to spend doing the statistical report for his department. Miller was responsible for all laundry and linen activities in the 800-bed hospital, two smaller satellite facilities, and several municipal agencies whose linen needs were filled by the hospital. At one time the report had been relatively simple, but as Miller’s scope of responsibility grew and administration requested increasingly more detailed information each month, the report had become more complicated. Miller had simply modified his method of preparing the report each time a new requirement was placed upon him, so there was no written procedure for the report’s preparation.

Faced once again with the time-consuming report—and confronted, as usual, with several problems demanding his immediate attention—John Miller decided it was time to delegate the preparation of the report to his assistant, Bill Curtis. He called Curtis to his office, gave him a copy of the previous month’s report and a set of forms, and said, “I’m sure you’ve seen this. I want you to take care of it from now on. I’ve been doing it for a long time, but it’s getting to be a real pain and I’ve got more important things to do than to allow myself to be tied up with routine clerical work.”

Curtis spent perhaps a half minute skimming the report before he said, “I’m sure I can do it if I start on the right foot. How about walking me through it—doing just this one with me so I can get the hang of it?”

Miller said, “Look, my objective in giving you this is to save me some time. If I have to hold your hand, I may as well do it myself.” He grinned as he added, “Besides, if I can do it, then anyone with half a brain ought to be able to do it.”

Without further comment Curtis left the office with the report and the forms. Miller went to work on other matters.

Later that day Curtis stopped Miller in the corridor—they met while going in opposite directions—and said, “John, I’m glad I caught you. I’ve got three or four questions about the activity report, mostly concerning how you come up with the count and percentages for the satellites.” He started to pull a folded sheet of paper from his back pocket.

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Miller barely slowed. “Sorry, Bill, but I can’t take the time. I’m late for a meet- ing.” As he hurried past Curtis, he called back over his shoulder, “You’ll just have to puzzle it out for yourself. After all, I had to do the same thing.”

The following day when the report was due, Miller found Curtis’s work on his desk when he returned from lunch. He flipped through it to assure himself that all the blanks had been filled in, then scrawled his signature in the usual place. However, something caught his eye—a number that appeared to be far out of line with anything he had encountered in previous reports. He took out two earlier reports and began a line-by-line comparison. He quickly discovered that Curtis had made a crucial error near the beginning and carried it through successive calculations.

Miller was angry with Curtis. The day was more than half gone and he would have to drop everything else and spend the rest of the afternoon reworking the figures so the report could be submitted on time.

Miller was still working at 4:30 pm when Pete Anderson, the engineering man- ager, appeared in the door way and said, “I thought we were going to rework your preventive schedule this afternoon. What are you up to, anyway?”

Miller threw down his pencil and snapped, “I’m proving an old saying.” “Meaning what?” “Meaning, if you want something done right, do it yourself.”


• Miller committed several significant errors in “delegating” the activity report to Curtis. Identify at least three such errors in the case description.

• Using as many steps as you believe necessary, describe how this instance of delegation might have been properly accomplished.

64 Case 19: If You Want Things Done Well…

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