Completed Staff Work
Click image to enlarge.
A well organized business will have systems in place for most situations occurring in normal operation. It is unavoidable, however, that circumstances arise for which there is no precedent and a solution must be found.
When such a situation arises and there is no agreed-upon method of handling it, problems inevitably end up in the lap of the person in charge of the area, who in each such case then has to do extra work to get the information they need and make a decision. Such a situation creates unnecessary work for the executive and slows production for those awaiting a decision.
In Hubbard Management Technology, there is a tool used to prevent this called a “CSW”. “CSW” stands for “Completed Staff Work” and is a form compiled by an employee seeking the resolution of such a problem.
A key element to the application of CSWs in daily business practice is the idea that the employee writing the CSW is actually responsible for the resolution of the situation at hand, as opposed to deferring responsibility to the executive above them by “asking for a decision”. Such a situation prevails in many companies and is the cause of the lack of production seen in middle management.
Consider the fact that in all likelihood, if you need to write a CSW to solve a particular problem, you are the person most closely involved and best equipped to solve it. If you just serve up a problem to your senior, they may not have all the information necessary to make an informed decision. The result of this is either a wrong decision, or time lost gathering information you should have compiled for them in the first place.
A CSW is called “Completed Staff Work” because it denotes the idea that the employee most concerned with the issue should complete the work necessary to solve it.
The contents of a CSW are divided into three categories: Situation, Data and Solution.
A situation is typically defined as, “a set of circumstances in which one finds oneself; a state of affairs”. However it could also be defined as, “A departure from the ideal scene; a not expected state of affairs. It could be either very good or very bad”.
Understanding this, you can see the broad application of CSWs. Not only can they be used to implement a solution to a problem or “bad” situation, but also for recommending changes in policy where some unexpected success or improvement to existing systems occurs. They are the means by which you can give all necessary data to those that need it on any situation.
The Situation section comes first and is a summary of the circumstances at hand. It should not go into detail, but rather state simply what is occurring.
The Data section gives all necessary data for someone reviewing the problem to confidently and correctly make a decision. When writing the Data section, write it assuming that the executive doesn’t know anything about the situation, but when they’re done they will know everything they need to.
The Solution section is last. This is where the employee submitting the CSW writes out the exact solution they are proposing for the problem laid out in the “Situation” and “Data” sections. It should be written in such a way that the executive reviewing the solution can simply approve it or not.
When writing a CSW, your solution should be a real set of actions that you can implement upon receiving approval that will completely and fully handle the situation. Once you have received approval, you can implement the proposed solution immediately.
If your CSW is disapproved, you will be given a reason why. This may end the matter, or you may resubmit a new CSW that addresses the concerns given if needed.
A CSW is formatted as follows:
At the top left of the page the CSW is addressed using the format below. If the CSW needs to be reviewed by more than one person, they are listed in order from bottom to top.
COO ← 2nd person from whom approval is required
Delivery Director ← 1st person from whom approval is required
Employee Name ← Employee Submitting CSW
The date is placed at the top right of the page.
Below the address and date, the title “CSW” is added, centered and in bold.
The main body of the CSW consists of three sections: situation, data and solution. Each will have its own bolded title.
Below the situation section there are to be two spaces provided for the executive to sign either “Approved” or “Disapproved”.
Chief Administration Officer
Our paper supplier has gone out of business. They had given us a great deal on supplies for many years, and the direct competition in town is more expensive.
ACME Paper Co. has been our paper supplier for 15 years. Because of our continued business and relationship, they were selling us paper at $2 per 500 sheet ream. As of last month, they have gone out of business.
Our last paper delivery was on December 20, 2013. We have enough paper to continue normal promotions until the end of January, or the middle of February if I send out 75% of the usual promotional material.
The other paper supplier in town is Wile E. Coyote and Sons. I called them and they charge $4 per ream, or $3.50 with a bulk purchase discount of over 100 reams per month. If we sign up with them, I can keep promotional materials going out without any delay, but the cost increase for paper will be 100%.
Given the great prices and the long-standing relationship with ACME, we have never had any cause to look anywhere else. However, when I heard they were closing I did a search online to see what I could find.
I found www.paper-r-us.com. I called them and spoke with Jim Jones in their sales department. I informed them of what was happening and he was extremely helpful.
He informed me that because their company was based online, they did not have the overhead of maintaining a brick-and-mortar location. When I explained how much paper we order each month, he spoke with his manager and got approval to match the pricing we had received from ACME, and offered us free shipping.
He sent me a sample of their paper and it is of comparable quality to the paper received previously. In a side-by-side print comparison the colors and clarity of printing were identical.
If we order by January 20, we can have our first delivery by January 25, in time to get out all February promotion with no delay.
I would like to contract with www.paper-r-us.com for all of our paper needs. The money allocated to ACME for this month will be spent with them.
Our staff is extremely capable and by using a system of CSWs, we can ensure they are able to intelligently solve problems and take responsibility for their area. This will also make the lives of our executives easier and keep things running much more smoothly as a result.
More information may be found on the subject of CSWs in the Hubbard references on the subject. Using CSWs is mandatory within our firm and is expected to be used in all situations that require approval.