Sponges are not always helpful!

We see well-meaning people adopt an attitude “if it needs done, then I will do it” even if their job or position in the company does not define them as the person to solve the problem. I call this absorption and it is part of the much ballyhooed “can-do attitude” upon which many companies thrive.  There is nothing wrong with a can do attitude. However, when the can do attitude camouflages an organization’s failures or failings then we are doing the organization and our talent within that organization a disservice.

Consider the person who regularly has to do part of somebody else’s job to perform their own. As an arbitrary example, let us say it is testing people who cannot work from requirements because the requirements never reflect anything remotely akin to the actual product performance.  Of course, it is true that it can be difficult to maintain the requirements through the development work. Change happens faster than the ability to respond to. However, it is also true that having test personnel running around asking assorted people (hopefully those that know) how the product is supposed to function is not an optimum use of the test personnel.  Having the test folks gather the “requirements” thusly means traceability to the end product is now word of mouth.  Additionally, our management will see that our test group consumes considerable hours to accomplish their work.  This leads to the false conclusion that verification area is an area rife for improvement. The test group will then come under scrutiny regarding those hours.  All the while, those at the executive level are blissfully unaware there is a problem.

Absorption, while moving the company ahead for the immediate term, sets the company up for failure.  A good book describing the problems with absorption (and solutions) can be found at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Leaders-Handbook-Making-Getting/dp/0070580286/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1367419622&sr=8-4&keywords=the+leadership+handbook

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