Monday, November 11, 2013

Clarity Exercise (A Work-Related Post)

So when our group formed, it formed to take on several roles. Some of those roles previously existed, some of them did not. Some pieces were vague notions never before seen in our group or the organization, and we also got a lot of stuff tossed at us as we went along.  Right now, my team is two guys locally as well as a guy who was onshore and is transitioning to offshore and I've got one open position that I'm recruiting for and will have a second one posted soon.

We spent the first month meeting daily for an hour with a specific agenda - what we were told were the key deliverables going in. It turned out that those particular items couldn't be the key deliverables, at least not yet, there was way too much foundational and new work coming up.

By month two, the day-to-day had consumed us. We continued to meet, but we held less to the agenda and more to trying to triage all that was coming at us. By the end of the month, it was obvious a change was needed. At one of our end-of-week meetings, we were seeing "venting" in the "stop" category and two of the team (one was me) said we needed to resume having an agenda at the meeting. Two full weeks later when I wrote this I'd still been unable to get an agenda together, but I should have something soon.

But I did do an exercise recently with each of the two guys to try to work on focus and priority. I had them write down on post-its everything that's asked of them. Then had them look at their job descriptions and, using a second color, write those down, too. Even if we're not employing those disciplines yet, if they're on the job description, we're technically asking for them.



Next, I drew square on the board and divided.  At the top left "You could pay me to do this." In the middle "Meh." At the bottom "Gouge my eye out with a spoon."

Across the bottom "Does not align with my job" and "Aligns with my career goals or our deparmental goals, but my job? Not so much." and finally "Aligns well with my job."

And then I had them place all their post-its on the board.


I purposefully took this photo from a distance because the specifics aren't relevant. It is amusing to find that one thing on the job description doesn't align with the job (??) but, anyhow... For this particular guy's grid, it was nice to see that there wasn't a lot that he felt didn't really align.

Next, I had him place a dot on each card to indicate where it fell on the grid (one in the bottom left corner of the grid got a dot in the bottom left corner of the card).

Then, I told him to draw 5 green checkmarks on what he considered the "most important" and left it up to him to determine what "important" meant. And as many red X's as he wanted on things he wanted to stop doing.

Then, working from the top right corner (work that they want to do and really aligns well), pulled off the green checkmarks and stacked them. And then working from the bottom left corner (work they really don't want to do and really doesn't align well) and made a second stacked list.

Everything else that's left on the board - not a priority. May still be work that must be done, but it's not an area of focus.  Removed and told them to rubber band them and throw them into a drawer, in case this was successful and we want to run the exercise again and compare.

And then we looked at the two lists we have left. At the end of the day, you can do a little bit for a lot of things, or you can take a smaller list and do them well.

The important list is pretty clear - make dedicated time to advance those efforts.  Maybe not all five, and definitely not equal time (more to #1)

The "stop doing" list is a little more challenging. There's no guarantee they can stop doing it. But they can intentionally, strategically look at what it means to stop doing it or to do it less.  It might be convincing others that it's not really needed, it might be finding a different way to do it, or it might be finding someone else to do it.

In at least one case, it's about curbing someone else's bad behavior - a case where their domain knowledge made them an easy target for drive-bys and their gracious nature and willingness to help meant they were constantly distracted from what they believed was their core responsibilities.  So we talked about tactics... if someone's coming to something they can do themselves through the self-service tool, it might be taking that person back to their desk and guiding them through the process themselves. Or jotting down their request on a post-it note and if it's not urgent, hold it for a few days.  (Or it's simply a matter of blocking time for work and going somewhere else besides their desk so that they're not available for drivebys.)

They're going to come up with some next steps towards their checkmarks and going to note each time they have to do an X so we can talk about tactics they might use to avoid in the future, or if there are certain people who we just need to have a talk with.

Longer-term, this is even great fodder for future SMART goals.

Now I just need to find the time to do this myself because right now, this is what I think I'm responsible for:


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