Archive for the ‘Personal effectiveness’ Category

Driving higher engagement – 6 rules for Smart simplicity

January 26, 2014

“Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler”. Albert Einstein

Why is productivity in some organizations so disappointing? Despite all the innovations in technology and all the investment in training and developing employees and managers to adapt to more and more complex organizations, why does it appear (and statistics would seem to bear this out) that a significant number of workers are disengaged from their jobs and feel unhappy at work?

In his insightful presentation, Yves Morieux gives his views on the main drivers of employee disengagement. More than that, he offers 6 simple rules for driving employee engagement and higher productivity.

For Morieux, traditional approaches on how to engage employees to be more productive have up to now focused on two main management pillars:

  • the “Hard” pillar which seeks to improve productivity by working on structures, processes, systems, statistics, KPIs,…
  • the “Soft” pillar which seeks to work on the interpersonal communication and personal relationships, the traits and personalities of the individuals in order to help them adapt their personalities to the constraints of the organization

Many companies spend large amounts of money on reengineering their structures, processes and systems in order try to drive higher productivity and engagement and/or on training their managers and employees to adapt to these new structures, processes, systems.

But for Morieux, these two pillars of management are obsolete and are even counterproductive. Why?

All organizations are becoming more and more complex and by trying to improve engagement using one or both of these two traditional management pillars (work the structure and train the people to adapt), they in fact only add on more complexity.  Rather, they add on layers of “complicatedness” to an already complex environment.

For example, in the car industry, a drive to reduce repair time led to the creation of a specific “repairability” requirement which in turn led to the creation of a specific “repairability” function, the role of which was to align design engineers to repairability objectives. This inevitably led to the creation of a specific “repairability process“, a “repairability scorecard” and “repairability KPIs “to measure engineering  alignment to process objectives. But when one considers that there were 25 other competing functions each with its own process, scorecard and KPIs, very quickly one realizes how complicated it was for the engineers concerned to comply meaningfully with so many competing constraints and requirements and for “Mr Reliability” to impact positively on the “repairability” issue in a meaningful way.

The inevitable result is that rather than improving productivity, such a traditional approach only complicates things by adding extra layers of administration, back office work and non added value tasks. Costs are higher for zero results.

The secret for Morieux lies in not drawing additional boxes with complicated reporting lines or adding on extra organizational layers. It lies, as he says, in understanding the “interplay“, the connections and cooperation required between functions to deliver the required result. In simple terms, what is key is how the parts “cooperate” or should “cooperate“. As Morieux points out, “every time people cooperate, they use less resources and not more“.

Conversely, when functions don’t cooperate, they always need “more time, more systems, more processes, more teams….which means higher costs. 

But who pays for this?

Not the shareholders. Not the customers. Individual employees must eventually pay by overcompensating for the lack of functional cooperation  through higher effort and this inevitably leads to burn out, stress, disenchantment and disengagement.

Faced with such productivity problems, the “Hard” management pillar seeks to add on extra boxes to the “organizational skeleton”. The “Soft” pillar believes that if functions  like one another and fit better together, this will solve the problem. But in fact, the result is often the opposite because to maintain the relationship, functions will seek to add on extra organizational layers expecting these extra layers to resolve the conflicts or deliver the tough trade offs required which they don’t want to address themselves  for fear of endangering relationships.

These two approaches are therefore obsolete in a complex organization because they only generate unnecessary complicatedness and Morieux offers instead 6 key rules for smart simplicity :

Rule 1: understand what people really do.

We need to go beyond the job descriptions and the organization charts and understand what others really do operationally so that we know how different functions depend on and interact with one another. The designer should understand the consequences of his design for the customer services team and for the repair teams before he commits a design and generates costs further down the line.

Rule 2: we need to reinforce the role and powers of the  integrators.

Integrators are not middle offices but managers who must  “have an interest in and be empowered to make others cooperate“. How do you empower managers? Firstly, by removing unnecessary organizational layers. When you have too many management layers, you have more and more managers who are  “too far removed from the action” and who need “KPIs and score cards” to see reality.  What they see is not reality but a proxy of reality. Secondly,  you also need to simplify the management rules because the bigger and more complex an organization becomes, the more you must give discretionary power to managers to solve their problems at their level. Quite often, we do the contrary and we end up by creating huge systems of rules which freezes initiative and drains local managers of responsibility. That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be rules but it is vital to ensure that the rule book is lean and that managers can act effectively and quickly.

Rule 3: Increase the quantity of power to everyone

If you want more employees to take initiatives and “engage” more with the organization, you must give more power to everyone so that they feel they can use their initiative and intelligence to good effect and that they have all the cards in their hands to make a difference. Only then will they be ready to take risks and really seek to cooperate meaningfully with others.

Rule 4: Create a shadow of the future

You must expose employees to the consequences of their actions by constantly creating feedback loops, thereby creating a shadow of the future.  This is what the car industry did when they told  design engineers that they would move to the after sales service three years on so that they would have to live with the consequences of their own designs. If you empower more people, you must also ensure that these empowered people get effective feedback on their actions so that they are constantly  adapting their behaviors to organizational expectations and can clearly link their actions and organizational results.

 Rule 5: Increase reciprocity

This means “removing the buffers that make functions self-sufficient”. There is too much dysfunctional self sufficiency in organizations, largely fed by increased organizational layers and sub layers. Remove these unnecessary layers and interfaces which interfere with meaningful cooperation and we will encourage greater productivity. Above all, seek to design your organization in a way that creates interdependencies between functions so that only cooperation can deliver the required result.

Rule 6: Reward those who cooperate, blame those who don’t cooperate

Rather than promoting a culture that blames failure, we should promote a culture that rewards cooperation and blames non-cooperation. Morieux cites the CEO of Lego who believes  that “blame is not for failure, blame is for not helping or not asking for help“. This indeed changes everything because it encourages us to be transparent and to cooperate.

These 6 rules have profound consequences for organizational design, for finance policies, for human resource management in complex organizations. Above all, if we implement these 6 simple rules, we will manage complexity without being paralyzed by complicatedness. We will create more value at lower cost. We will simultaneously improve performance and job satisfaction because we will have removed the root cause that hinders both : “complicatedness“. This is the real challenge facing all leaders of complex organizations.

Less Procrastination, more Performance: 3 simple steps

September 26, 2009

Have you ever found yourself putting off important tasks over and over again or waiting until the very last minute to  deliver on a commitment or requirement of a colleague? Or have you often had to contact time and time again a colleague to get him or her to deliver on a commitment or requirement?

Quite often, it’s not your fault nor the fault of your colleague and the more complicated and fuzzy the organization is, the more difficult it becomes to deliver on time to all stake holders when you are involved in multiple projects.

But setting aside all the organizational issues, sometimes it is down to our own behaviour and attitudes and we all are guilty at some stage of what is commonly called procrastination or putting off until tomorrow what we could do today.

Of course, most of us seek to be effective and don’t put off too many important issues until the very last moment. However, some people are seriously affected by procrastination and to such an extent that it seriously impacts on their performance and on their careers.

Meeting commitments and deadlines is a key indicator of performance and so it’s important to be able to evaluate if and when we are letting ourselves fall into the trap and take the actions to ensure that we don’t develop a chronic tendency to postpone the urgent and important issues which are the issues that count.

Why do we sometimes procrastinate?

There are many reasons why we may procrastinate:

  • we prefer to do a task that is more enjoyable than tackle a task which is complicated or disagreeable
  • We don’t know how to prioritize and tackle the first task that comes our way
  • We may listen to the person who shouts the loudest or simply do what our boss asks and forget about our other customers
  • We may be overwhelmed by the task, not knowing where or how to begin
  • We may doubt if we know how to do the job
  • We may doubt if we have the resources to do the job and so we do the tasks we’re comfortable with and let the big tasks slip
  • We want to wait for the “right time” to do the job rather than do it now
  • We’re afraid of not succeeding and so we avoid confronting the risk
  • We don’t organize our work and just “do it”
  • We’re too perfectionist and spend too much time seeking perfection

These are some of the reasons why we procrastinate but how do we deal with it?

Here are 3 simple steps to getting important tasks done effectively :

step 1: recognize it’s happening

Being honest with oneself is the first step and we all know more or less when we’re guilty of putting off urgent and important tasks. Self knowledge is the first step to dealing with the issue and so learn to track the times when we adopt behaviours or attitudes which don’t contribut to getting thing done on time: going for a coffee, going out to smoke a cigarette, reading our emails, navigating on the internet, etc.

Step 2: Understand why it’s happening

Once we realize we are not dealing with important and urgent tasks on time, it’s important to analyze why. Here are some common causes:

  • We find the task unpleasant
  • We find the task too big
  • We have too much to do
  • We’re afraid of failing
  • We’re afraid of the consequences
  • -…

Understanding why we are not doing what we should be doing will helps define a strategy to help us decide what needs to be done when.

Step 3: Some tips to sort out the important things that need to be done from the unimportant things

  • Prioritize. List your tasks on a daily basis and prioritize them using the “Urgent versus Important” task matrix.

Urgent versus important matrix

  • Tackle your important and urgent issues first and put off or cancel the unimportant and not urgent issues
  • Don’t let your important and urgent issues dictate your agenda. Focus on the important but not urgent issues because these issues are the real added value and help you reduce the urgent/important; urgent/not important and not urgent/not important issues which take up your time.
  • Tackle each priority 1 issue systematically and avoid being interrupted or distracted when you’re working the issue. Avoid stalling or stop-go. Common behaviours to be avoided are beginning a task and then going off to have a coffee or smoke a cigarette, begin reading your emails (disconnect your email alert), etc.
  • Set yourself a deadline to clear the priority 1 issue off your to-do list. Don’t allow priority 1 issues to accumulate on your to-do list.
  • Learn to say “no” to unimportant requests from others, including your boss. Do your important tasks first.
  • Delegate if possible some priority 1 tasks to others and seek to delegate all the unimportant but urgent tasks to others or again if possible, cancel them.
  • Delegate, don’t dump. Be mindful not to dump things on subordinates if and when you delegate. Delegate in relation to the roles and responsibilities in the team and remember to check if your team members themselves don’t have too much on their plates. Delegate responsibility for completing the task and the results. Don’t delegate the method. Delegate the whole task and not just a part and specify the expected results.
  • Reward yourself when you do a priority 1 task which was unpleasant (a good lunch for example)
  • Ask a peer to remind you that you need to get the task completed. Peer pressure is very effective.
  • Work out the consequence of not doing what you are supposed to do. If you don’t pay the telephone bill, your line is cut off!
  • Break the task down into smaller, more manageable tasks and build an action plan to complete each task according to deadlines.
  • Start with some quick wins and do some small tasks which are easy to do. This gives you sense of achievement and builds momentum
  • Always set a deadline for each priority 1 task and hold yourself to the deadline.
  • Plan time in your agenda to deal with the priority 1 tasks and don’t allow yourself to be distracted when you sit down to do these tasks. Don’t answer the phone, don’t read your emails, don’t go for a coffee, etc. until the task is completed or successfully launched.
  • Remember to check off on your list the tasks completed. You reassure yourself that you are getting things done successfully.
  • Make firm commitments to others and stick to them. Quite often, procrastinators don’t like to make firm commitments as this allows them more freedom not to act. If someone asks you to commit to a task that is a priority 1 task for both of you, make a firm commitment in terms of a deadline and hold yourself to it. Get the person to remind you of your commitment.
  • Define the outcomes you expect for each priority 1 task and define deadlines when these outcomes should be in place. Visualize in your mind the situation with the outcome in place. This will help you overcome fear of failure.
  • Set yourself deadlines for decision making on each task. Learn to decide. A poor decision is better than no decision and an outcome implemented on time can always be corrected. Postponing a decision because the solution is not perfect means discovering later possible issues which only serve to delay even further a successful completion. You can’t correct a solution which hasn’t been implemented.

Even if we have to spend significant time in Quandrant 1 ” important and urgent” activities, our main goal should be to spend more and more time in Quandrant 2  “important but not urgent” activities because that is where we will proactively take control of our agendas and prepare the future.

As Stephen J Covey says, we should be spending as little time as possible in quandrant 3 “Urgent but not important” and quadrant 4 “Not Urgent and not important” activities because these activities are time wasters and distract us from the real value added activities. Dealing more and more with the not urgent and important issues will help you move from the P in Procrastinate to the P in Performance.

To conclude, I’ll stop procrastinating for now and finish this article.

I suggest you  stop procrastinating  too and check out a  funny video from Daily Motion on the phenomenon.

 

Personal Success Factors: some golden rules

February 20, 2009

Work is more and more stressful and leaders have a responsibility to do all they can to reduce the impact of stress on themselves and their team members. Key is maintaining a good work/personal life balance. Also critical is the relationships a leader creates and maintains at work with team members,his/her managers and internal customers. Here are some simple golden rules and suggestions to help you get the human relationships right both on the personal and professional level. This list is not comprehensive and is open to debate.

Look after yourself
• Don’t forget your family is your number 1 customer.
• Keep in shape: keep fit!
• Don’t smoke! Keep well.
• Always take your holidays. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy!
• Dress well! Look the part. Pay attention to your appearance.
• Practice a sport and/or a hobby regularly.
• Reinvent yourself every year: learn something new or do something new. Develop your creativity. Be a work in progress and not a finished article.
• Read and study continuously. Keep on learning.
• Laugh, enjoy yourself.

Set your course
• Accept to do the difficult job nobody else wants to do: develop your willpower and determination.
• No goal, no medal. Give yourself SMART objectives.
• Always keep within budget.
• Build your internal and external client base and take care of it.

Manage your communication
• Ban all irony, sarcasm and bitterness from internal memos, mails, communications: always be positive. Never badmouth or criticize others, no matter what!
• Always call people by their first name.
• Send hand written letters whenever possible. A personal touch is appreciated.
• Be careful of your image and appearance: smile!
• Don’t use bad language.
• Be direct: say it as it is while remaining correct.
• Never speak in anger. If angry, hold your fire.
• Never put in writing offensive or negative comments. What’s said is quickly forgotten, what’s written sticks.
• Don’t overuse emails. If you can give the message directly to the person, do so.

Manage your work
• Set aside 30 minutes a day for thinking and planning
• Note down your ideas systematically
• Isolate yourself once a month to plan ahead and organize yourself
• The idea may be imperfect, not the implementation. Execution is everything. Don’t be half-hearted. Do it well or not at all.
• Practice the 6P rule: Personal prior planning prevents poor performance!
• Insist on the company products, not on the paperwork
• Don’t try to build an empire. Focus on getting the job done.
• If it works, keep it. Don’t change for change’s sake.

Manage yourself
• Always be prepared to go the extra mile: always say yes and figure out how to deliver the expected results.
• Always keep your door open.
• Don’t bury your head in the sand: deal with problems immediately.
• Always be ready to do a favour.
• Reduce your business knowledge gap: constantly learn the business
• Do your homework and close out open tasks. Get the fundamentals right.
• Don’t panic, don’t get angry. Practice keeping calm.
• Learn to speak and write well.
• Be a lender, not a borrower: give other people credit for success
• Hard work comes before glory
• Search, correct, try again. Be creative and don’t be afraid to fail.
• Hurry up at your own pace. Decide in haste, regret at leisure!
• Stand back, observe, listen. Seek to understand before being understood.
• Collect your errors carefully and proudly. 7 times down, 8 times up! Only those who have never tried anything have never failed!
• Live the present moment to the full. Plan tomorrow, forget yesterday. I’m better than I was yesterday, not as good as I will be tomorrow!
• Keep out of power struggles.
• Refuse to join the club of the forever regretful: join the club of the forever optimistic and persevering.
• Never underestimate an opponent.
• Don’t be discouraged by those who try to kill ideas.
• Look on work with the eyes of a sales rep. Don’t forget to sell your ideas.
• Be a super sales man, whatever your role.
• Support your company fervently.
• Arrive at work 45 minutes before everyone else and leave 15 minutes later than everyone else.
• Don’t make staying late a habit.
• Don’t bring work home.
• When you travel on business, wherever you are, in a train or plane, use the time and work!
• When away from home for work and if alone, don’t waste time in the hotel restaurant. Have dinner in your hotel room and work.

Manage your boss
• Trust your manager
• Be loyal. Don’t bite the hand that feeds.
• Don’t buddy up with your boss(es). Business is business. Build a professional relationship.
• Give all the credit for success to your boss and the boss of your boss. They’ll reciprocate.
• Never surprise your boss. Always keep him/her informed.
• Never let your boss make a mistake.
• Imitate, study and take care of good bosses
• Get your boss to visit the team to thank team members regularly and personally.

Manage others
• Trust your team members.
• Recruit the best according to 3 criteria- integrity, determination, intelligence.
• Pay your employees more than their market value: Pay more and you’ll get more
• Give surprise bonuses for work well done and vary the method.
• Treat each person individually.
• Be polite and say thank you.
• 10 things to say to make people feel at ease
– please
– thanks
– Introduce a team member to your boss by “you remember Mr X…”
– you did a great job
– I appreciate the effort you made
– I keep hearing lots of good things about you
– I’m delighted to have you in the team
– I need your help
– Well done, congratulations
• Don’t spread rumours and don’t tolerate people who spread rumours
• Point the spotlight on the good idea, not on the person
• Never forget the spouses & families of your subordinates
• Teaching others means continuously studying and leading. Accept roles which allow you to train others.
• Let people know where they stand. Be clear and direct.
• Set SMART objectives and follow up regularly on progress
• Don’t use bad language and don’t tolerate bad language in others.
• Never take things personally.

Manage your network
• Get yourself recommended by senior managers in the organization.
• Keep a file “connections/relations” and update regularly.
• Every Friday: have lunch with someone outside your service.
• Build a network of allies within your organization
• Keep in touch with your network and help out when you can.

Manage your Career
• If you have a choice, always choose the best paid job
• Avoid if possible functional work, always seek operational responsibility
• Don’t wait for HR to plan your career. You are responsible for your own career development

What principles would you add or subtract from the list above?

Jeffrey Fox: The 75 laws
Stephen J. Covey: The 7 Habits of highly effective people

The martial art of getting things done

February 9, 2009

We’re all confronted with the daily challenge of getting things done, not only in our professional lives but also in our private lives. Getting things done is not always so easy but throw in a constantly changing environment and this becomes very challenging indeed. Quite often, our environment seems to conspire against us and countless “unforeseen events”, interruptions, sudden requirements spring upon us to dislocate our plans and throw our system into a spin.

Our managers change, our teams change, company strategy changes, objectives change, business partners change, the environment changes, customers change, technology changes, everything around us seems to be in a constant state of change. We’re constantly being interrupted by some sudden cause or problem which requires our attention and disrupts our schedule and/or plans. The only thing that seems permanent is change itself and we may often feel we spend our day firefighting and dealing with only current and immediate tasks, short-term tasks.

It’s easy to understand why so many people may experience anxiety when they look around and see how fast their world is constantly evolving and/or how often they are interrupted. This constant and increasingly rapid change and rate of interruption conspires against action because it’s difficult to act if the world around you changes quicker than your ability to implement and embed your actions to deal with that change. Why fight to follow up on objectives if the changes to the business environment make those objectives redundant? But failing to act increases anxiety because it creates a sense of lack of control, organization and preparation to act.

Even more ironically, the very tools we use to organize and track our work and commitments seem to conspire to add to the disorder through information overload and we risk getting bogged down with what seem to be sometimes very non-added value tasks: cleaning our email inbox, sorting our voice mails, sifting through the huge pile of brochures and booklets of all sorts that wash up on our desks on a daily basis, dealing with correspondence and admin tasks, etc.

So how can we deal with this constant change and overcome this feeling of anxiety which is an obstacle to effective action and getting things done?

How can we get above the clouds and plan long term? How can we improve our personal productivity and that of our teams so that we all feel we are not only getting things done but getting the right things done? Peter Drucker teaches us that efficiency means doing thing the right way and effectiveness means doing the right things. How can we spend more and more time doing the right things which add value and which give us more control over our changing environment?

This is the challenge that David Allen explores in his study on “Getting things done” and the very interesting thing about this book is that while it presents many tricks and tips that we all may use spontaneously and/or instinctively to organize our work more productively , its great merit in our view is that it is systematic in its approach and defines a comprehensive system for managing all the multiple inputs into our professional and private lives and structuring them into an operation system which allows us to sort out the essential from the secondary, prioritize all our actions and decide on the key next actions which will move us forward.

Indeed, one key message that can be taken from David Allen’s work is that the faster the change, the more we need to build a structured and comprehensive system to manage all the various inputs because if we don’t manage change, change will manage us!

Here are some key points summarizing David Allen’s approach to getting things done:

Collect all the “stuff” on your mind and write it down. Anxiety is caused by a feeling of lack of control due to a failure to meet commitments or a feeling that you need to do something but you don’t know what. The first step to alleviate this anxiety involves collecting everything on your mind and putting it into a clear system. You can only manage what you have identified so you need to write all your “stuff” down and classify all the different items in different actions lists. This of course requires discipline and method.

Process what all this stuff means and decide what to do with each item and how to organize all your decisions into one system. David Allen defines a basic system with the following components:

If you decide NO:
you have 3 possibilities:
* Trash: delete an item that has no value
* Incubate: put the item on hold in a “Someday/Maybe” box or “Tickler” bow
* Store for review at a later date in a Reference box

If you decide Yes:

Decide which actions can be taken and closed immediately and which need more planning:

You have 5 possibilities:
*list of long term projects: is the item a project you wish to undertake?
*list of project plans and materials. Is the item a plan or a change to a plan?
*calendar. I sit an event you need to put in your calendar?
*list of reminders for next actions. Is it a next action that needs to be implemented in the very short term?
*list of reminders of things you are waiting for from others. Is it something you need to receive from someone else?

– Do :Once you’ve decided on your immediate actions and sorted all other actions in the appropriate boxes, implement the actions.

– Discipline yourself to review all your “stuff” on a weekly basis and update your system and different lists.

We all perform these 8 phases of workflow management more or less: collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing and doing but not perhaps so systematically as David Allen advocates.

Above all, we may not always apply systematically the question “what’s the next action?” to each open item in the yes category above.

It’s only when all open items have been identified, processed, organized, reviewed and a concrete next action has been defined for each item that the workflow management process is really operational.

Even if David Allen encourages the reader to classify actions in the short, medium and long term, his approach is nevertheless very pragmatic and urges the reader to adopt a bottom up approach which begins with immediate next actions.

His advice is clear: to get things done, seek to employ next action decision-making because next-action decision making rooted in the short term contributes to increased productivity, clarity, accountability and empowerment. Because if you ask the question “what’s the next action?”, you immediately decide what needs to be done, by whom, when, how, where and why. The longest march begins with one small step and one small next action decision.

To conclude, David Allen in turn quotes a certain Sidney J. Harris:

An idealist believes that the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short term determines the long run“. Don’t allow things not done now undermine your long term.

Check out David Allen and “Getting things done“and read more about the “martial art” of getting things done and the power of the next-action decision.

View the video of David Allen giving a presentation on getting things done to Google team members.


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