One of my EOS clients asked about involving teams below the executive level in rock setting, instead of assigning rocks top down. His team had apparently asked for the opportunity to pick their own rocks, but he felt apprehensive about letting go of that process, besides not seeing a distinction between the top down delegating of major inititives and picking them by team members.

(For those of you not familiar with “rocks”, they are those “important, but often not urgent initiatives that often take 10 hours or more to accomplish and are outside of business as usual”. Picking and creating accountability for rocks ensures that the team is working ON the business all the time, building the forward momentum of the company.)

Why it Matters

The thing that gives rocks their power is that everyone is involved in suggesting them, prioritizing them, making them SMART and picking them. Some leaders fear that if they involved their teams in picking rocks, they would be suggesting and selecting the “wrong” rocks, but in practice that would rarely happen, if at all.  Leaders are in a prime position to influence the prioritization, selection and fine-tuning of each rock, or they can simply suggest that a particular rock is not a priority.

In any event, most team member will find it difficult to eliminate rocks from the list (i.e. make tough decisions), the leader can take the initiative and “kill” sub-optimal rocks early, so that only priority items are left for the final selection. These can then be tweaked and assigned to the right people with the support of the leader.

So assigning rocks to team members would not have nearly the same impact, as in that scenario there would be no buy-in from members of the team. The staff’s commitment will come from being involved in the process and having been heard, even if their suggestions end up not making it to the final list.

What is YOUR take on sharing rocks, as opposed to assigning them?  Is there a real difference?