Management Skills: Donut


To create clear expectations regarding performance and encourage creativity.


Adapted from work by Charles Handy, clarity of expectations is created by dividing responsibilities into 3 categories:

  1. Core Responsibilities: Those things that are expected to be done as described.
  2. Judgment and creativity: Those things where there is an expectation to try things – to see what works and what doesn’t work. To learn by making an effort. If something is in this category it has to be OK to get it wrong.
  3. Not your responsibility: This defines the boundaries of responsibility for those who are paid.

When first using this tool begin with a specific situation or activity where expectations are clear. Examples of these are often Important For issues. (e.g. how someone is transferred; how to care for a gastrostomy tube; or what to do in situations that can trigger challenging behaviors.) Ask:

  • Where must we follow the instructions exactly (core responsibilities)?
  • Where can we try things and learn from the results – and it is OK if it doesn’t work (judgment and creativity)?
  • Are there aspects of the effort or the outcome of the effort that are not our responsibility?

Two graphics follow. The donut represented by concentric circles is very useful in explaining the concept but can trap people into thinking that when they are out of space for core responsibilities they are done describing what they are. The 2nd graphic – the donut in columns – is recommended for recording responsibilities.