Parker Vascik, O∆K’s national student vice president, and Emma Bones, another O∆K member, are participating in the 2014 Mongol Rally. Parker and Emma are blogging about their experiences for O∆K. This post was submitted on August 19, 2014, by Emma.
The title of this blog post is “Task Ownership.” However, the subtitle should be, “How not to run out of water.”
Leadership can be a fluid as it shifts from one person to another in a group as conditions change. This tends to be a positive, as it may allow people to lead with their strengths, while following others in areas where they are weaker. However, this can result in key items or procedures being forgotten as well.
For example, today Parker and I were driving across the desert that seemingly occupies most of Kazakhstan. We have had a flu bug which rotated through our group over the past week, effectively taking us out of commission and one person at a time. I am just getting over my two-day stint while Riley is entering his and is asleep in the back seat.
During this time, we have been trying to transfer leadership effectively. Last week in Kyrgyzstan, while Parker was under the weather, I stepped up and took over many of his roles in car maintenance and financial matters. This gave him time to recover and handle some easier tasks such as water purification.
However, not all responsibilities have been this carefully managed. Yesterday, Riley and I were both feeling ill. Parker attempted to manage all the team tasks while driving to give us time to rest. Unfortunately, he did not prioritize finding water (a role I usually fill), and we now find ourselves in a bit of a predicament as we dip into our emergency reserves.
Today, I am back on my feet (or at least sitting up straight in my car seat again). Now, Parker and I are both on the hunt for water. While we are confident we can solve this problem without severe repercussions, there are lessons we can take away from this to prevent future issues.
One of the first lessons is to be sure an official transfer of responsibilities takes place. We each know how to do our jobs very well, and they are second nature to us. However, yesterday when thinking about what I did for the team, Parker simply didn’t consider my water responsibilities. Therefore, he didn’t count how many liters we had in our jerry can; a task I do habitually every morning. If I had given a list or at least verbally told him what roles he needed to pick up from me, then it is likely he would have checked our water supplies.
Second, the team should prioritize their responsibilities. Operating a rally team is a full-time job for three of us and condensing those responsibilities down to a single person is a large task. We have now made a list of essential tasks such as medical care, car maintenance, water supply and gas supply which we should focus on more heavily over other responsibilities if leadership were to shift dramatically again. This way, Parker, or any of us, would know what was most important to take care of to keep the team safely running.
Not everyone on your team will be functioning at peak performance at all times. Illness, holidays, emergencies or simple fatigue may reduce the ability of someone to complete their tasks. In this case, it is important for your team to understand how to share leadership and responsibilities. It is a good idea to transfer responsibilities officially, so the new person knows their new roles. Finally, task prioritization can keep the team essentials functioning even in times of extreme capability loss.
More information about 3.F.L.P. team including Parker and Emma may be found here.