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Management article
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Reference no. 1517
Authors: Robert L Simons
Published by: Harvard Business Publishing
Published in: "Harvard Business Review - OnPoint", 2005

Abstract

This is an enhanced edition of HBR article R0507D, originally published in July-August 2005. HBR OnPoint articles include the full-text HBR article plus a summary of key ideas and company examples to help you quickly absorb and apply the concepts. Tales of great strategies derailed by poor execution are all too common. That''s because some organizations are designed to fail. For a company to achieve its potential, each employee''s supply of organizational resources should equal the demand, and the same balance must apply to every business unit and to the company as a whole. To carry out his or her job, each employee has to know the answers to four basic questions: (1) What resources do I control to accomplish my tasks?; (2) What measures will be used to evaluate my performance?; (3) Whom do I need to interact with and influence to achieve my goals?; and (4) How much support can I expect when I reach out to others for help? The questions correspond to what the author calls the four basic spans of a job - control, accountability, influence, and support. Each span can be adjusted so that it is narrow or wide or somewhere in between. If you get the settings right, you can design a job in which a talented individual can successfully execute on your company''s strategy. If you get the settings wrong, it will be difficult for an employee to be effective. The first step is to set the span of control to reflect the resources allocated to each position and unit that plays an important role in delivering customer value. This setting, like the others, is determined by how the business creates value for customers and differentiates its products and services. Next, you can dial in different levels of entrepreneurial behavior and creative tension by widening or narrowing spans of accountability and influence. Finally, you must adjust the span of support to ensure that the job or unit will get the informal help it needs.

About

Abstract

This is an enhanced edition of HBR article R0507D, originally published in July-August 2005. HBR OnPoint articles include the full-text HBR article plus a summary of key ideas and company examples to help you quickly absorb and apply the concepts. Tales of great strategies derailed by poor execution are all too common. That''s because some organizations are designed to fail. For a company to achieve its potential, each employee''s supply of organizational resources should equal the demand, and the same balance must apply to every business unit and to the company as a whole. To carry out his or her job, each employee has to know the answers to four basic questions: (1) What resources do I control to accomplish my tasks?; (2) What measures will be used to evaluate my performance?; (3) Whom do I need to interact with and influence to achieve my goals?; and (4) How much support can I expect when I reach out to others for help? The questions correspond to what the author calls the four basic spans of a job - control, accountability, influence, and support. Each span can be adjusted so that it is narrow or wide or somewhere in between. If you get the settings right, you can design a job in which a talented individual can successfully execute on your company''s strategy. If you get the settings wrong, it will be difficult for an employee to be effective. The first step is to set the span of control to reflect the resources allocated to each position and unit that plays an important role in delivering customer value. This setting, like the others, is determined by how the business creates value for customers and differentiates its products and services. Next, you can dial in different levels of entrepreneurial behavior and creative tension by widening or narrowing spans of accountability and influence. Finally, you must adjust the span of support to ensure that the job or unit will get the informal help it needs.

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