Completed Staff Work
Completed staff work is the study of a problem and the presentation of a solution by a staff employee. All that would remain on the part of the supervisor, manager, or a colleague would be to indicate his or her agreement or disagreement of the completed action. The words "completed action" are emphasized because the more difficult the problem, the more the tendency is to present the problem to the supervisor, manager, or colleague in piece-meal fashion. It is our responsibility, and in some cases our duty, as a staff member to work out details, no matter how perplexing, before broaching the problem issue in a coherent fashion. The product, whether it involves procedure or new policy, should, when presented to the supervisor, manager, or colleague, be worked out in finished form to get the best feedback. However, one should not feel impeded from arranging for a meeting to discuss the problem at hand. This often helps to work things out expeditiously and this is encouraged in a "learning organization". This provides an opportunity to share with others the difficulty you are facing.
The natural impulse to ask the supervisor, manager, or colleague what to do recurs more often when the problem is difficult. Generally, it is accompanied by a feeling of mental frustration. It is easy to ask the supervisor, manager, or colleague what to do and easy for them to answer. You may wish to resist the impulse first and succumb to it only if you are unsure of the nature of the problem or do not know how to resolve it.
It is our task to advise our supervisor, manager, or colleague what they ought to do, not ask them what you should to do. Your supervisor, manager, or colleague needs answers, not questions only. Your job is to study, write, restudy, and rewrite until you have evolved a single proposed action plan, the best one you have considered, and then approach your supervisor, manager, or colleague with your position.
Alternate courses of action are desirable in many cases and should be presented. But, you should have your recommendation stated as to which you think best for proper mutual evaluation of a case. Keep explanation and memoranda concise to explain a process, a procedure, or clarification of issues so anyone can understand. Merely writing a memorandum to your supervisor, manager, or colleague does not constitute completed staff work. But writing a memorandum for your supervisor, manager, or colleague to send to someone else does. In other words, place your views before him or her in finished form so that they can make them their views simply by signing their name. In most instances, completed staff work results in a single document prepared for the signature of the supervisor with attached comments. If the proper results are reached, the supervisor will usually recognize it at once.
The theory of completed staff work does not preclude the "rough draft". But the rough draft should be in final form based upon thorough research and information available at that time. The rough draft must be complete in every respect, except for the required number of copies and might not be neat. Do not use the rough draft as an excuse for shifting the burden of formulating the action to the supervisor, manager, or colleague.
The completed staff work theory may result in more work for the employee, but it results in more freedom for the supervisor, manager, or colleague. This is as it should be. Further, it accomplishes two things:
- It protects the supervisor, manager, or colleague from half-baked ideas and unfinished problem definition.
- It more readily enables the employee with an idea to sell to find a market.
When you have finished a "completed staff work," the final test is this: If you were the supervisor, manager, or colleague, would you be willing to sign the paper you prepared, and stake your professional reputation on it being right? If the answer is negative, take it back and work it over, because it is not yet completed staff work.
I hope this will guide you in your efforts to move towards a world-class operation and continuous quality improvement in our quest to become the best.
Chris Ahoy, Associate Vice President
Facilities Planning & Management
Iowa State University
From Facilities News, January 1999