When Facebook’s APAC head of marketing partnerships Kiran Raghavan first started with the social media giant almost five years ago, he was set a daunting task on his first day: to make himself redundant.
“I don’t know how many of you had this conversation on your first day talking to a manager about what you’re expected to do in the months and years ahead,” Raghavan said at an IBM customer engagement forum in Sydney.
“The first thing he [said] was, ‘Your singular focus should be to make your job redundant’.
“To hear that from someone on your first day was a little jarring.
“I’ve been in companies in the past where essentially you build influence and respect by the size of the teams that you grow, and instead here was somebody asking me to essentially wipe out my daily existence every single day.”
But Raghavan went ahead and did it.
“What I’ve done over the last five years is run through four different jobs, making each one of them redundant as I’ve gone through it,” he said to nervous laughter from the room, adding, “Interesting experience.”
It may have been Raghavan’s first experience with the concept, but it is one shared by others and espoused in many corners of management.
Rob Ousbey tells a similar story to Raghavan, except that it was his idea – not his manager’s – to make parts of his job redundant.
Ousbey said in a blog post that he suggested process improvements that enabled him to work more flexibly and win back time to work on projects that interested him.
“What did not happen? I didn't lose my job,” he said.
“I wasn't asked to take on some menial role. I wasn't told to stop being so productive because I was making other people look bad.”
The path to leadership
Some see it as a way to transition from being a manager to being a leader.
Network marketing professional Guy Hargreaves sees it as a way to hand off the operational tasks that managers often get bogged down with, freeing them up to think, strategise and focus on the bigger picture.
“Over time, your role as a manager will become redundant because your people will be competent, confident and capable,” he said.
“They will effectively ‘manage’ themselves with a clear understanding of what is required.
“As a redundant manager, you will then be free to ‘think’ again, and that’s where you know you can really add value.”
“The one thing that all effective leaders do is make themselves redundant so they can move on to even greater challenges and help more people – knowing that the team they built will flourish and carry on the mission,” he said.
“All my personal success as a leader has been a result of living this principle.”
Efron said one of the greatest tests for whether you’d made yourself redundant was whether you could take all your annual leave without checking into the office once while you were away.