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Julia started “Mike, I explained what was needed from Anthony. Sat with him to create the action plan, defined the goals…and still the work got done late, over budget and the Quality Auditors are all over my ass.”

“Who did Anthony delegate part of the tasks to?”

“Robert. He has worked with Robert for years. With this happening, my boss is looking for solutions so this won’t happen again.”

“Did Robert know the context of Anthony’s work? Did Anthony know the context of your work? Did you know the context of your Managers work?”

“What do you mean, Context of the work?”

Context sharing of the manager, manager’s manager and so on…is sharing the frame of reference with the person being delegated the task. By setting this frame of reference it allows people to see how their work fits into the bigger picture and also to gain appreciation of the types of complexity that the manager may work through in completing their own managerial-work.

In the conversation above, the problem of Robert not completing the work on time could have, possibly, been avoided by Anthony sharing the context of the work to be completed.

  1. Anthony set the context for Robert by outlining four things:
  2. Anthony’s task (the goal what-by-when assigned by Julia) and the boundaries + resources within which Anthony has to operate.
  3. Julia’s big picture (the context of Anthony’s task)
  4. The options and path (the plan) that Anthony has developed to achieve his goal (accomplish what was delegated to him by Julia).
  5. The tasks that Anthony has delegated to Robert and the interrelationships between this task and any other tasks that Robert is working on.

The purpose of this context setting is to ensure that the person delegated with a part of the longer time-span goal has a picture in their mind of what their manager intends for them to do and how that fits into their managers plan. Knowing the context, Robert is able to make decision and solve the problems as they arise and is clear about the limits and directive end-state of his work.

What do you think?

In what ways could you knowing the context of your managers’ work support you in completing your tasks?  How might you explain the context of your work to you subordinates? Do you have an example of context setting that has proven effective?