Are you running out of time?
Everyone in business has multiple demands on their time. Everyone has a high-priority issue that needs to be resolved immediately and cannot wait any longer. Jim Rohn, a successful entrepreneur, had the expression: “Either you run the day or the day runs you.”
As a person who has been involved in multiple complex projects, prioritization of these demands is essential. For example, in my role as product manager, there were many departments, groups and individuals that I needed to communicate, coach and collaborate with on the direction of the product strategy. Groups that were associated with the product release process included:
• The Executive Team
• Sales/Sales Support
• Systems Engineering
• Product Development/Engineering
• Program Management
• Professional Services
• Customer Service
As the “CEO” of the product, it is easy to see how these groups would want your time and attention. Therefore, a critical skill to be successful is being able to organize your work tasks and prioritize them so that ongoing efforts to product GA are completed.
Everyone has different ways to organize their day but one of my coaches early in my career told me his method and it as has worked well. It was his TTD, or “Things-To-Do” list. It sounds simple but it works. The key was his ability to prioritize his list by asking key questions about each task and ranking the tasks accordingly. Some of the questions included:
1. Is the task directly tied to revenue?
2. When is the item due?
3. Who is it for?
4. What is the level of importance?
5. What is the estimated effort?
The list of questions above is certainly not a complete list. To use this method effectively, each person will need to make their own set of questions to assess their TTD list. Once the questions are completed and the list is prioritized, it is recommended to review the list each morning and/or at the end of each day. This is because there may be new information to influence the order of ranking, or more likely, there are new items to add and prioritize.
The reason this method works for me is that it gives me a clear focus on the highest priority items that need to be accomplished.
Corner Office Wisdom:
Each person is different and needs to determine what methods will work to make them successful. Using a TTD list has been a simple and effective tool that has aided my success.
Cross-training: A lesson from the World Cup
Watching the World Cup qualifying tournaments has been really enjoyable. It is always great to see individual talents performing at the highest levels. But what was even more enjoyable was seeing the teamwork demonstrated by the players. The teams that gelled the best were the ones that were the least selfish and supported their team mates.
There are many times in the momentum of play that the player with the ball has an opportunity to take the ball down field. As he does so, he will need to temporarily “switch” positions with another player. For example, if the player is a defender or a mid-fielder moving the ball down field, he might suddenly occupy the space of a different player, perhaps a winger. The winger will need to switch positions and pull back to cover for the midfielder. To do this successfully requires great communication, cooperation and common skills between players. If the winger does not fall back, the result will be too many players bunched up in an area of the field. This will leave gaping holes in the defense should the momentum of play shift and go the opposite way.
In one of my roles, I was leading a software development team. It consisted of a Sr. Engineer under contract, a tester, a student-intern, and me, also a Sr. Engineer. We had a tremendous amount of work to do to get our delivery completed. Each of us had individual roles and assignments. After working an extensive amount of overtime, we completed the delivery. Then my group was combined with a second group. It also included a mix of Sr. engineers, testers, as well as a person who handled the massive amount of process paperwork required by the customer.
In our first meeting together as a team, we compared notes and realized the new group had worked even more overtime than my original group. They were really tired and on the verge of burn-out. Looking at the dark circles around everyone’s eyes, we determined there had to be a better way.
We decided to review the process used to get things done. We determined that there were a number of bottlenecks in the way each task was accomplished. The biggest issue was that people were so focused on their own role and assignment that they did not know what the others persons did. We discussed how we can tear down some of the walls between roles in the team and focus on how we can work together better. The results included:
1. Cross-training and developing skills among some of the team members to expand their abilities.
2. Allow them to grow and take on additional, more expanded roles.
As a result, we were able to “switch” individuals between roles and directly assist one another when needed. With the combined adjustments of increasing the skills of the team, increasing communication and cooperation, we met our deadlines with very high-quality, high-morale and minimal overtime.
Corner Office Wisdom:
There are times when process improvement also requires skills improvement including cross-training of individuals in the organization. By improving the skills of the team as a whole and encouraging cooperation, the team will operate with greater efficiency and higher quality in completing their deliverables.