Archive | June 2014

But what does it mean for me?!

The first thing that a person’s going to do, when they are told something’s going to happen to their work – whether it’s a new office, a change in seating plan, a new piece of software, phone, whatever – is ask themself “how is this going to affect me personally”. It really doesn’t matter how something is ‘sold’ to them, how it’s better for the business, it’s going to help make savings, be more competitive, make life easier… a person is going to continue being suspicious (until they are told) “but what does it mean for me”.  And it’s amazing how few people ask that question out loud to the right person, they frequently mull it over and water-cooler it…

Handled badly (not through malice, but from not recognising this unavoidable consequence of change – response), suspicion and a will for the project to fail will prevail. Logically, why would people embrace a new anything if they have no reason yet to believe it will not cause them harm. I work in IT at the moment – the team develop systems which are cost effective because they make processes streamlined, self- fullfilling and reduce paper-based / labour intensive tasks. So, it’s very possible that the software we roll out WILL make some of the day to day practices redundant this point ….tasks…..

It’s a perfect opportunity to inspire staff – e.g. ” when we make the repetitive, boring jobs automated, you’re going to have time to do those really challenging, career-progressing tasks that we keep talking about but somehow never find the time to arrange. How about we start thinking about those and getting you trained up?”  See how different that is from a person being expected to embrace the software that does the work they currently do most of the time? Suddenly, it’s not just the tasks which feel redundant…

In summary – projects, by definition,  bring about change, and change has the potential to be amazing. Failure to explain the change and fast-forward to the world where the change is in place and fill in the gaps for those at the receiving end of the change is not only insensitive, but is also bound to affect the enthusiasm with which projects are received.

Isn’t it better to plan for amazing rather than insensitivity and a lack of enthusiasm, surely? You’ve just got to fastforward a little and think like the end user thinks.

Pareto Principle and the law of diminishing returns

As with many of the my heroes, Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto, is an economist and a philosopher (See also Daniel Kahneman) and his simple idea resonates in today’s business as much as in his own day (early 20th Century). It’s a simple idea that states that, in general* you get your first 80% of benefit from your first 20% of effort. This could be the effect of a sales promotion, or a new staff incentive. It also applies in the sense that 20% of workers do 80% of the work etc.. his model was founded on  observations of his such as that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

For me, what it means is…. focus on the first 20% of effort, get lots of 20% effort events going on and come back to squeezing the last remnants of benefit out afterwards if you have that luxury of time. Obviously, if you are a nuclear scientist you will need to do thoe whole 100% no matter how painfully slow those last test, test, retest etc. are to generate results, but in business generally, it’s a rare person that hasn’t got something new lined up that should jsut be getting started to reap those easy rewards!

*normally distributed stats/ caveat emptor etc.

Meetings – the illusion of effectiveness

Meetings are such a common cause of complaint, such a timewaster, and such an easy thing to improve upon, yet people seem to accept this drain on their working world without actually doing anything to improve matters.

I love collaboration, love talking and involving people, it’s just that I believe that long drawn out, flabby meetings so often get in the way of genuine engagement. If you want to make your team impressed with your respect for their worth, here’s some meeting tips:

  1. Have 5 tiny catch ups if you can rather than 1 mammoth meeting if people are only needed for a specific section of it (think like a Venn diagram, join up the people who genuinely need to overlap)
  2. Circulate the meeting purpose (n.b. not what it’s about, but what it hopes to achieve) with the invite
  3. Give people the option to ask questions and prepare specific items before the meeting
  4. Give people a real opportunity to decline the invite if they don’t think they have anything to contribute
  5. Restate the purpose at the start of the meeting and ask if everyone knows why they are there. If they don’t know – tell them, or encourage them to go spend their time more wisely
  6. Thank people for coming – bring doughnuts, make coffee, take them somewhere interesting for the meeting, do something which tells them you value them
  7. Start on time
  8. Ask people for feedback on the meeting – could its objective have been met in a better way?
  9. Send notes/minutes/photos/whiteboard pics whatever as soon as possible after the meeting and make it clear what the next actions are
  10. Do your next actions and check progress on others before the next meeting

You will find that people start to take your meetings much more seriously, and respect that you value their input and time. Now you’ve read about it, just do it – and let me know how you get on : )