Thursday, March 14, 2013

Responsible versus Influence

In tech, we talk sometimes about who is “responsible” and who has “influence”. You get to define a process or deliverable when you have primary responsibility for it. You influence it when you don’t have ownership, but have an interest in the outcome.** 

Sales execs go to great lengths to determine who will make the final decision, and who is “providing input”. Likewise, in the professional services practices I run, I ask my teams to be crystal clear about who at the client has actual signature authority over a change order or acceptance for a deliverable. Knowing up front who “influences” versus who is “responsible” helps avoid ambiguity as you near the end of a process.

There is a huge disconnect right now, in that BCS seems to feel that they have the right to define the final facilities offer for the 2013-14 school year. That responsibility, by law, is assigned to the LASD Board of Trustees. We’ve offered them the opportunity to influence what we propose, but the LASD BoT will retain final responsibility for the content of the offer. We provided a preliminary offer that gave some insight into our thinking, and they had an opportunity to provide feedback through their March 1st response. That was a great opportunity to influence the Final Offer. Unfortunately, they have come back with a completely different proposal- once again trying to redefine the offer in terms of their choosing. In the process, they are squandering the opportunity to influence the outcome, because they’re so insistent on trying to define a path the District has no interest in pursuing.

The District is, therefore, proceeding with our legal responsibility and defining the Final Offer. I’ve reached out to BCS in the past few days to try to give them a chance to influence the final configuration. However, if they keep insisting on trying to define it on their own terms, we will do what we are responsible to do under the law- we will balance the impact on students, we will weigh the financial impacts, and we will define the Final Offer and move forward.

**Note:  Using this explicit terminology has fallen out of favor in the collaborative workplaces of the Silicon Valley, but the concepts still apply.  People describe it differently, but ultimately the concepts still exist.