Dealing With Task Saturation With Task Shedding and Task Sharing

Afterburner Team Written by:
Afterburner Team

The Keys To Teamwork And Improving Your Team’s Execution

Teamwork, Mutual Support, Cooperation. These are the goals that all managers and CEOs strive to achieve within their teams. But how do you ensure that after you get the “right people on the bus and in the correct seat” that they have the tools to work “flawlessly” together as an agile team? One answer lies in the practice of Task Shedding and Task Sharing to prevent task saturation.

Individual Task Shedding

Task Shedding occurs at two levels: as an individual and as a team. Individual Task Shedding occurs when you become overloaded or “Task Saturated” and as a result must set aside or delay one task to focus on a more immediate matter. For example, you may have a sales report due, but while you’re working on it, an important client calls with an urgent problem. Obviously, you would delay completing the sales report to handle your client’s situation. But what happens when a second emergency arises? What should you do if your number one client is occupying all of your time and your number two and three clients call in looking for service? If you handle this situation sequentially, you run the risk of alienating your second and third clients.

Team Task Shedding

Multiple emergencies require Task Shedding as a team. Team Task Shedding is the process of delegating critical items that are ultimately your responsibility to a member of your team when you are task saturated with a more important task. To Task Shed a project, client or task to another member of your team, your co-workers must generally understand the overall situation and objectives. They must be informed of the possibility of the Task Shedding contingency plan so they can pick up where you left off. How do you accomplish this? You could require your co-workers to be involved in the planning phase of the project from the beginning to ensure that they are intimately familiar with your plan; however, you may not have the staffing or the time. At what point do you include your reserves and bring them up to speed? The answer is the BRIEF.

Brief the Contingency of Task Shedding

A thorough BRIEF will cover the scenario, the Mission Objectives, threats and resources, the course of action and the contingencies. If your co-workers attend the Brief, then they will have all of the critical information necessary to make this a seamless transition. However, if they were not pre-briefed, the consequence will often be what you see in businesses today — the “hey, I need your help” call. And while you are trying to put out a major fire, you are also trying to bring co-workers up to speed in a very chaotic environment. The end result is that they only get half the story; it’s often misinterpreted, and the finished product is usually not what you or the client expected or is completely unsatisfactory. You then spend more of your time correcting the situation or perhaps even find yourself trying to prevent the loss of an important client. You will ultimately save time and work more efficiently if this situation is considered in step six of the planning process (Plan for Contingencies) and is briefed to the people that it might affect. Remember, Task Shedding is something that is planned for and briefed. It is not done on the fly.

Task Shedding as a Fighter Pilot

The F/A-18D Hornet is an aircraft that utilizes two crew members, a pilot, and a WSO (Weapons and Sensors Officer). The pilot and WSO have their own areas of responsibility when employing the aircraft. However, they always brief the areas where they might become task saturated with their primary task and will need to shed some of their additional responsibilities to their teammate. For example, the pilot operates the radar in the Air-to-Air mode and the WSO operates it in the Air-to-Ground mode. However, there are times in a multi-plane engagement in which the pilot is completely task saturated with maintaining control of the aircraft, looking for bogeys, and trying to avoid a mid-air collision. During these times, the pilot can simply say “your radar” and instantly the WSO knows that he is to assume the responsibility for the radar. And because he had been briefed beforehand, the WSO knows exactly what he is expected to do depending on the situation. Once the level of saturation decreases, the pilot would then say “my radar” and control would be passed back with the radar setup for the current situation, resulting in a seamless transition back and forth in the heat of battle. Because they planned and briefed this specific scenario, their aircraft, and their team would execute flawlessly.

Task Sharing

Task Sharing is the process of assigning the members of your team’s predetermined roles in the planning and execution phase. As leaders, you cannot and should not plan and execute your projects or missions alone. Task Sharing begins when you delegate tasks to the members of your team to spread the workload and avoid having one person assume the responsibility for the majority of the task. In the planning phase, for example, different people would be assigned the task of collecting information on your competition, your resources, and the Lessons Learned from the teams that have gone before you to bring to the open planning session. After you have determined the best course of action, you would share the task once more by assigning responsibilities (who does what, by when, and how) and determining the metrics of your success. This process will help prevent performance-draining Task SaturationSM or Task Overload. For example, instead of a store manager on opening day attempting to be the single point of contact for the customers, vendors, media, and security, he or she would delegate these specific tasks to his or her team. This process would spread the workload and result in an enhanced experience and more efficient event. Remember, a leader can delegate authority but never responsibility, so it is imperative that you give your team the tools to accomplish the task and a Mission Objective that is clear, measurable and achievable.

Task Sharing as a Fighter Pilot

In the F/A-18D Hornet, the pilot can operate the radar in both the Air-to-Air mode and in the Air-to-Ground mode from the front seat. However, the pilots divide the task or “Task Share” the operation of the radar between the crew members. The pilot operates the radar in the Air-to-Air mode and the WSO operates it in the Air-to-Ground mode. This doesn’t mean that they could not Task Shed to each other if they became task saturated. It is just a better method of optimizing the capabilities of the aircraft and minimizing the possibility of one of the crew members becoming task saturated.

Could your individual contributors, Teams, and Organization benefit from increased Teamwork, Mutual Support, and Cooperation?  Expose them to the tools of Task Shedding and Task Sharing and see for yourself!

Let Us Show You How ►