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Busy with Buzzwords: "Own this"

So, how many times have you been asked to "own" something vs. just doing it?

Of late, 5-6 people have used those exact words when asking me or others to work on something. Its like somebody just sent out a motivation tactic memo to everyone that I know!

The choice of words is really fascinating to me. Clearly, I'm going to be much more committed to doing something that I now apparently "own" and the subtle difference in words can have quite an impact on the way the work you're parcelling out is treated.

Think about it: Doesn't owning the grocery-shopping sound better than being told to go and do some chores?

In my mind though, owning something means
  • enpowerment (hopefully some resources as well)
  • decision-making ability, even if its limited. 
If you're not given these, you're not "owning" stuff, you're doing stuff; which is fine; just different and probably less interesting.

The take-away:

To those who would make others "owners":
  • its a surprisingly effective motivation tactic; just using those words can make people much more committed to completing the task that you want them to do
  • but don't be evil and use those words well; give people the right to influence, drive and make decisions as they do this.
  • Everyone will be happier this way

To those who would be made "owners":
  • just be aware of this tactic that others use
  • if you feel like it, use it to your advantage! Take the initiative, be bold and if met with resistance, throw the "But you wanted me to own this" card.


Isaac said…
To me, the essence of owning a task is ensuring that it gets done. If I ask someone to own something, I generally mean "do it, or get someone else to do it".

You're right, though, that there's an empowerment angle in the implicit third option (which exists in enlightened companies like Google): "...or figure out why it's not needed, or why something else would in fact be a better thing to do".

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