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This serves as a prod and a challenge. It brings out their capabilities and frees the manager to assume added responsibilities. As members of the organization become capable of assuming new and more difficult duties, they develop pride in doing the job well. This attitude soon permeates the entire organization. One must permit his people the freedom to seek added work and greater responsibility. In my organization, there are no formal job descriptions or organizational charts. Responsibilities are defined in a general way, so that people are not circumscribed. All are permitted to do as they think best and to go to anyone and anywhere for help.

Each person then is limited only by his own ability. Complex jobs cannot be accomplished effectively with transients.


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Therefore, a manager must make the work challenging and rewarding so that his people will remain with the organization for many years. This allows it to benefit fully from their knowledge, experience, and corporate memory. The Defense Department does not recognize the need for continuity in important jobs. It rotates officer every few years both at headquarters and in the field. The same applies to their civilian superiors. This system virtually ensures inexperience and nonaccountability. By the time an officer has begun to learn a job, it is time for him to rotate.

Under this system, incumbents can blame their problems on predecessors. They are assigned to another job before the results of their work become evident. Subordinates cannot be expected to remain committed to a job and perform effectively when they are continuously adapting to a new job or to a new boss. When doing a job—any job—one must feel that he owns it, and act as though he will remain in the job forever.

He must look after his work just as conscientiously, as though it were his own business and his own money. If he feels he is only a temporary custodian, or that the job is just a stepping stone to a higher position, his actions will not take into account the long-term interests of the organization. His lack of commitment to the present job will be perceived by those who work for him, and they, likewise, will tend not to care. Too many spend their entire working lives looking for their next job. When one feels he owns his present job and acts that way, he need have no concern about his next job.

In accepting responsibility for a job, a person must get directly involved.

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Every manager has a personal responsibility not only to find problems but to correct them. This responsibility comes before all other obligations, before personal ambition or comfort. A major flaw in our system of government, and even in industry, is the latitude allowed to do less than is necessary.

Too often officials are willing to accept and adapt to situations they know to be wrong. The tendency is to downplay problems instead of actively trying to correct them. Recognizing this, many subordinates give up, contain their views within themselves, and wait for others to take action. When this happens, the manager is deprived of the experience and ideas of subordinates who generally are more knowledgeable than he in their particular areas. A manager must instill in his people an attitude of personal responsibility for seeing a job properly accomplished.

Unfortunately, this seems to be declining, particularly in large organizations where responsibility is broadly distributed. The man who takes such a stand in fact is not responsible; he is irresponsible. While he may not be legally liable, or the work may not have been specifically assigned to him, no one involved in a job can divest himself of responsibility for its successful completion. Unless the individual truly responsible can be identified when something goes wrong, no one has really been responsible. With the advent of modern management theories it is becoming common for organizations to deal with problems in a collective manner, by dividing programs into subprograms, with no one left responsible for the entire effort.

There is also the tendency to establish more and more levels of management, on the theory that this gives better control. These are but different forms of shared responsibility, which easily lead to no one being responsible—a problems that often inheres in large corporations as well as in the Defense Department. When I came to Washington before World War II to head the electrical section of the Bureau of Ships, I found that one man was in charge of design, another of production, a third handled maintenance, while a fourth dealt with fiscal matters.

The entire bureau operated that way. Design problems showed up in production, production errors showed up in maintenance, and financial matters reached into all areas. I changed the system. I made one man responsible for his entire area of equipment—for design, production, maintenance, and contracting. If anything went wrong, I knew exactly at whom to point. I run my present organization on the same principle. A good manager must have unshakeable determination and tenacity. Deciding what needs to be done is easy, getting it done is more difficult.

Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous impatience.

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Once implemented they can be easily overturned or subverted through apathy or lack of follow-up, so a continuous effort is required. Too often, important problems are recognized but no one is willing to sustain the effort needed to solve them. Nothing worthwhile can be accomplished without determination.

In the early days of nuclear power, for example, getting approval to build the first nuclear submarine—the Nautilus —was almost as difficult as designing and building it. Many in the Navy opposed building a nuclear submarine.

The Agonising Pain of Doing The Job You Hate.

In the same way, the Navy once viewed nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and cruisers as too expensive, despite their obvious advantages of unlimited cruising range and ability to remain at sea without vulnerable support ships. Our nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and cruisers have proven their worth by defending our interests all over the world—even in remote trouble spots such as the Indian Ocean, where the capability of oil-fired ships would be severely limited by their dependence on fuel supplies. The man in charge must concern himself with details.

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If he does not consider them important, neither will his subordinates. In my work, I probably spend about ninety-nine percent of my time on what others may call petty details. Most managers would rather focus on lofty policy matters. But when the details are ignored, the project fails. No infusion of policy or lofty ideals can then correct the situation.

To maintain proper control one must have simple and direct means to find out what is going on.


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