There’s a common story, often told to demonstrate leadership principles, that has been on my mind lately.
Here’s the story, which is titled “Whose Job Is it, Anyway?”
The bottom line is that when no one takes responsibility, nothing gets done.
This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
I see a bit more to the story. Before we get into that, let’s define each of the primary words, according to Merriam-Webster:
- Everybody is every person
- Somebody is a person of position or importance
- Anybody is any person
- Nobody is a person of no influence or consequence
Now substitute the definition of each of these different words in the story, and we get closer to what I think the real problem is.
This is a story about four people named every person, a person of position or importance, any person and a person of no influence. There was an important job to be done and every person was sure that the person of position or importance would do it. Any person could have done it, but a person of no influence did it. The person of position or importance got angry about that, because it was every person’s job. Every person thought any person could do it, but the person of no influence realized that every person wouldn’t do it. It ended up that every person blamed the person of position or importance when the person of no influence did what any person could have done.
When read like this, you get a different perspective. What if you went one step further and put a job title and description to each of those words, along with a salary amount, and then put those items in a flow chart of responsibility — perhaps even applying it to your own place of work? What would it look like then? And what would it say about how work gets done, what perceptions exist among those in the flow chart and leadership?
I’m curious to hear your thoughts.