It has been said (and written) many times that this just doesn’t work. Without authority over something one can’t be expected to deliver results. And I’m afraid I find myself in that position exactly. I guess I’m learning a lesson. So, I thought it over and here are my conclusions.

From now on I’ll communicate clearly that if I’m given a field to run then two conditions have to be met. First, said field has to be well defined. No fuzzy buzzwords, just concrete, clear definition of what I’m supposed to do and what I’m responsible for.

But secondly, and more importantly, I have to have the authority over the field of responsibility. That means that my decisions must be final within that field unless my superior doesn’t agree with them. That also means that others have to follow what I say and I must have some real tools to motivate them to do so (like influence over their earnings, bonuses or ability to fire them).

Otherwise the only thing I can count on is voluntary cooperation, which simply doesn’t work in most cases. And there are people running in different directions doing different things, sometimes without me even knowing about it even though I theoretically should. This leads only to frustration, which in turn leads to some unpleasant e-mails and conversations. And that doesn’t help anyone – and certainly it doesn’t help the job that has to be done.

Of course such clear communication might be risky sometimes, but I think it’s better to risk not being given the job than failing at it. And having responsibility without authority is a clear recipe for failure.