Being clear about expectations is fundamental to a high performance, results driven organization. A manager must clearly define the roles of his/her direct reports and remain clear about the expectations as day to day projects and tasks are assigned. Since work is the use of creativity to produce an intended output, it is best to focus on the boundaries rather than prescribing the exact path. Managers must develop the skill of task assignments so that employees have wide enough boundaries to allow them to utilize their full capability, but narrow enough boundaries to avoid interference with other employees, and what I will call unproductive wanderings. Here is a helpful format for your task assignments. Remember it by the acronym C-P-Q-Q-R-T. This acronym stands for Context, Purpose, Quantity, Quality, Resources, and Timing.

Context: Set the context by stating the larger picture of why this and other tasks are being done. A good manager is always ensuring his/her team is aware of the context for their role, and task assignments are another opportunity to ensure context is clear.

Purpose: If the Context is the why, then Purpose is the what. Clearly state the task with the desired output in mind.

Quantity & Quality: The quantity and quality is the manager’s opportunity to set the standards that should be met in order for the manager to be satisfied with the output. If the output of the task is short of the manager’s expectation, then this portion of the task assignment should be reviewed. Often manager’s were not clear when stating quantity and/or quality expectations.

Resources: State the available resources in terms of access to people, funds, and systems which can be used to deliver the output of the task. Must the employee stay within annual budget limits or can the task be delivered by funds beyond current budget limits? Is the employee authorized to reach out to other members of the manager’s team, or even other departments beyond the manager’s normal authorization? (This would assume the manager has authorization to access such resources from a higher level of management.)

Timing: If a target date is not set, then the employee is not required to finish the task. Set a targeted completion date. A manager uses his/her judgment in deciding an appropriate time frame to complete the task. The target date can be renegotiated if the employee has additional information which the manager had not considered in the original target date. The manager always follows up to insure on time completion. It is unacceptable for the employee to surprise the manager by not completing the task by the target date. It is the employee’s obligation to renegotiate the target date (well in advance of the date) if unforeseen circumstances prevents completion of the task by the specified date. I will write more about “commitment” as a foundational accountability requiring no surprises in another post.

The CPQQRT is a simple but power practical tool for managers. It should be done in writing at the onset of each new task and shared with the assignee. The assignee should be given an opportunity to ask questions, which has the additional benefit of providing the manager immediate feedback on how to improve their task assignment skills. With the advent of email, I prefer to send the CPQQRT to my direct report in an email and request a face to face to discuss. This give them a chance to study the CPQQRT in advance and be prepared to ask all their clarifying questions when we meet.

Using written CPQQRT’s will make your organization more accountable immediately plus deliver major improvements in execution. Don’t wait any longer to start using CPQQRT’s.


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