Getting (the right) work done

young businesswomanIn this time of automated workflow, many people find that their jobs are created and the work is prioritized by computers. Call centers work with ticket systems, automated phone trees and call prioritization, major enterprise software like SAP, charts the process and indicates exactly when the individual needs to take what action.

The one major exception is the leadership or management role.  No software tells you how to get work done, no computer triggers your motivational interventions and no systematic workflow helps you lead the inevitable crisis that has all colleagues look at you for decisions.

So how do you get work done? How do you prioritize and how do you ensure that there is a balance between the urgent and the important. What system, method, gadget or process do you use to keep things running and stay on top of what happens?

Clearly the most important activities for managers are to set the goals or communicate them, ensure the process works and get the people the resources they need to accomplish the mission.

Studies into the manager’s time allocation have shown that managers waste lots of time with trivia, administrative work that could be delegated and urgent matters that have little impact on the business as a whole or the goals that have been set. See the paper from Paceproductivity for an overview of time studies with managers.

In order to clear your day to be able to devote enough time to management activities you will need to change something. Reread the book “what got you here won’t get you there” on how to change habits and activities that were very much appreciated in your former roles but may not fit in your management position. A friend started a new job as the head of a sizable operation and told me the following anecdote on how he freed up substantial time in his daily schedule. His assistant came in with a stack of papers for him to sign but instead of starting to sign the stack, he got all the people in his office who had prepared the papers and told them that they would in future be authorized to sign most of these as he had not added any value to the process and so should not be a step in the process to do the work. Only the major expenses on his budget and major liabilities were retained and all other administrative endorsements got eliminated. This is a good example of getting the process sorted out so the operation runs as efficient as can be.

You are probably familiar with all major systems to get work done efficiently; Getting things done, The Pomodore Technique, Jerry Seinfeld’s advice, Personal KanBAn, and a system they call The Secret Weapon.

I encourage you to look at all of them as it depends on your personal preference which one works for you. If a system is designed to save you time by doing things faster or more efficiently the question remains though if it was worth doing that activity in the first place?

Three things have been very helpful for me;

  1. Reviewing if my activity has anything to do with setting or clarifying Goals, Communicating with the Team, checking the Process or ensuring we have the right Resources. If the activity did not relate to any of these, I had to rethink who else could do this or if the activity should be postponed or cancelled.
  2. A system to capture all things I need to or want to do. This will ensure that I don’t have to continue to think about all of them and can access and review the activities at regular intervals.
  3. Systematically reviewing my projects by asking the following questions:
    • How important is this project
    • What is the status at this moment
    • What should ideally be the next step by me
    • What is it that keeps me from making this step
    • What can I do to move this forward

It is not just a question of getting the work done, but primarily a question of getting the RIGHT work done.

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