No No-Brainers

Once upon a time, I had an assistant. I put her in charge of finalizing a small project while I was on vacation. We’d made an update to the procedure manual for cleaning one of the machines. The training was complete and the addendum with the new procedure had been added to the manual. My assistant was responsible to get all the machine operators to sign-off on receipt of the new procedure and training.

Simple, right?


I returned from vacation to find my inbox full of messages with questions: How would the machine operators get copies of the new procedure? What were the machine operators to sign — an individual or a group form? When was this due? Where would the signed updated procedure go when complete? The orginal message from my assistant to the production supervisors didn’t provide any detailed information. All it said was that the new procedure had been published and we needed all the operators to sign it. It covered the who and what — but it didn’t cover where, when, why or how.

When I asked her about it, she said “Well, I figured it was a no-brainer. This isn’t the first time we’ve had a procedure change. I assumed they knew what to do.”

LESSON: There are no No-Brainers!!!

Good managers and leaders never assume people automatically know what to do and how to do it.

Even if it is something the person has done hundreds of times before, it is still in the best interest of all involved to provide clear instructions and/or set expectations at the start of any new task. This lessens the margin for major errors and confusion. Parameters and goals set people up for success!

This is not about micro-managing or “hand-holding” people through every issue. That isn’t helpful to you or the other person! If you have to give a person specific, detailed directions and supplies for every single task to be completed … one of you is useless. Arguably, both of you are.

However, managers and leaders should hold people accountable for correct, consistent completion of work assigned. And you cannot do that unless you provide directives, explain significance and outline consequences for failure or non-compliance.

Everything we do in relation to our work should be intentional, deliberate and full of thought — even the routine and repeat things.  Be clear on what you’re doing and why at all times and in all things — and hold those around you to the same standard.

No No-Brainers.

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