As we get ready to start a new year, companies often evaluate their employees and open positions to determine staffing needs. When performing this evaluation managers should consider the “Start, Stop, Continue” method. This method is based on the idea that there are tasks that each employee does that they should stop doing, activities that they should start doing, and actions that they should continue doing. The goal of explicitly calling each out and reviewing these activities with each employee, is so there are no question about job responsibilities and how to guide the work being done by each individual.
Step 1: Have each employee take a look at their job description.
No job descriptions? Well maybe you have an additional step to accomplish prior to this! Have the employee make notes on responsibilities and tasks listed on the job description that are either missing or not part of their job currently.
Step 2: Review each task and responsibilities and determine if this is something the employee should stop doing, start doing or continue doing.
If “Start” – discuss why they are not doing this and the impact of the activity on their other responsibilities
If “Stop” – discuss why they felt compelled to do this activity (who assigned, etc.) and who is the appropriate person or role to do this.
If “Continue” – reinforce the importance of this activity and ensure that it is clear on the job description
“Why should someone stop doing something that is helping the company?”
We’re often asked this question, which can be explained by a real-world example – I had a client who had a need for a file transfer from a large hospital system to a local application. After getting all of the requirements, we built an automated job that would take the file and transform it into the destination system format and insert the records into the database. The only catch was there was no automated way of grabbing the file from the hospital. We had to log in manually and pull it down. Since I was leading the process, I logged into the hospital system each morning (at 7AM) and copied the file into the client network system. I did this every day for the first few weeks in order to prove that the process could work smoothly. I found myself every day Sunday through Saturday getting up and spending the 5 minutes moving this file from point A to point B. A few times I was travelling with my family on a weekend, and I would get a call from the client wondering why the file wasn’t in the destination system. Oops….I had forgotten to move the file! I had not trained anybody how to perform this task, and the whole morning process depending on me getting up and moving this file. Did I do this for job security? Nope, I just felt like I would be burdening someone else with this responsibility instead of protecting the process and ensuring that it always got done (no matter who did it). Furthermore, I was a paid consultant for this client and I never billed the 5 minutes per day it took to accomplish this task. It was just something I did. I needed to STOP doing this task, train others on the activity and set up a schedule to share the burden of the 7AM move. We eventually automated this step as well once we got the appropriate hospital people involved, but at the time the organization was at risk of losing productivity due to a single point of failure (me!).
People often pick up tasks that others should do because their philosophy is “we are a small team and everyone has to pitch in”. While this is true in a small company, when that same company starts to grow and mature into a bigger company, roles and responsibilities should be clear and delineated. I’m not suggesting that people pass on key company activities citing “that’s not my job”, but instead ensure that the individuals appropriately responsible for carrying out company actions are trained and empowered to do so. We hold on to tasks that we know how to do often justifying it by “it is just easier to do it myself than to spend the time training someone else on how to do it”. There is a minor bit of ego involved here, as the benefits of teaching others is far greater than relying on a single person to carry out an action.
“Why are people not doing activities that are clearly in their job description?”
In contrast, we’re also asked why people aren’t performing their job responsibilities. These “Start” activities are usually a result of unclear job descriptions or simply the deferral of these tasks to others who have been performing them for some time (“Greg always runs the file transfer, so I don’t really need to learn how to do it”). Another example – a small manufacturing company hired a business analyst to work with the users on shop floor automation issues. This person was not managed by IT, but instead took direction from the operations manager. The outcome of her meetings were always technology projects, and the workload would be added to the queue of IT projects to be done. This became a point of contention for the business, as her projects would go through the same prioritization projects as other IT efforts, but the project gating process was very different (because she didn’t technically belong to IT….she was the stakeholder in all of these projects….not the business). This was a clear problem that we called out after examining what was happening in the organization, and our recommendation was for the IT Director to start managing this resource and move the stakeholders of these projects to the actual business users. It seemed like a simple change that should have been implemented in the beginning, but since it was easier to not manage that resource, the IT Director didn’t feel compelled to start managing another person in their department. Once he learned more about her job and role and how work was getting done, he was able to provide input and assist with putting the correct prioritization of these projects in place.
In summary, the “Start, Stop, Continue” exercise is a valuable tool in understanding how work gets done in your company or department. It leads to valuable discussions with each employee, and can reap big benefits as companies mature past their small business mentality. If you’re in the beginning phase of evaluating employee responsibilities and don’t know where to start, Solvaria offers fractional CIO services you can utilize.