Are people robots?

A typical job description defines the duties and responsibilities of a role, sometimes in great detail. This type of job description is a checklist to insure that a person performs the tasks that are listed. It creates a standard so we can judge right/wrong.

Written in this manner, job descriptions do not inspire; they do not encourage a person to be creative and take risks. Instead, they basically treat the person as a robot – an interchangeable cog in the corporate machine. Is it any wonder that suggestion boxes routinely fail to attract suggestions?

One potential antidote is to include a section in the job description that outlines the areas in which organization wants the person to:

1. Exercise judgment,

2. Be creative

3. Take risks

4. Be proactive (create recommended solutions to a problem)

With clear parameters on the limits (e.g. risk not to exceed $1000 without approval from person’s manager).

Example: Singapore Airlines gives each customer-facing employee a checkbook, with the authority to write a check to compensate a customer for whatever problem the customer has encountered. For example, employee in the baggage claim area can write a check to repair/replace damaged luggage, in about 1 minute. No other signature or approval necessary.

What do you think?

Gary Langenwalter

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