How your processes save your backside

When you have a well-defined process, it can be tedious at times. Sometimes you even want to throw unpleasant terms on it, like “bureaucracy”.

Bureaucracy sounds nasty. I’m trying to think of someone who could make it sound palatable. Maybe Mr. Rogers or Martha Stewart or Samuel L Jackson could make it sound nice, or at least cool. Well, stand-back, because I’m about to try to add my name to that list. Let’s see if I can sell you on a little bureaucracy.

Have you ever asked someone at work, to do something? Maybe your colleague even said they already completed your request, “yep, it’s done. You’re welcome”, and then it turned out that it actually WAS NOT done. So you asked them what happened and suddenly that person has some kind of memory loss. “I didn’t say that. I don’t recall agreeing to that. You never asked me to do that”. You just got hung-out-to-dry. Maybe you are even a little mad about it. I know I would be.

I must confess, I’ve even done this to myself a few times. Please believe me: I was not trying to deceive or trick myself. I just got rushed to do a bunch of important things and I overlooked one or two important steps and didn’t realize it until much later. I was pretty mad at myself and maybe even vowed to never let it happen again.

I think we can agree, these are two types of instances where “following-a-plan” could have helped. Here is how things would have gone differently.

Scenario 1:
Me: Hello fellow-co-worker, could you please accomplish this very time-sensitive task.
Co-worker: Absolutely. I am glad to participate.
Me: (later, via email). Here is the plan. It shows what I am doing and what you are doing. It also has durations, and an ETA (for your tasks and mine). Could you please confirm that this is correct?
* If the co-worker doesn’t respond or can’t commit, I retry, but CC a manager or two, just to ensure that I am okay to assign work to that person (and maybe I am even applying a little muscle).
Co-worker: Yes
Me: (later, following up) Hey, I just wanted to touch-base. I’m sure you have it handled. I just wanted to see if you need anything from me, or if anything is in-your-way.
Co-worker: (who nearly forgot) Yes, I am about to start on it right now.

The take-away from this is:
• Confirm the commitment from each team member
• Ensure everyone is aware of the timeline, tasks, work distribution
• Follow-up, with plenty of time before the deadline. So, if the person forgot, there is still time to complete the task on-time.
• Keep following-up (very politely), until each task is complete
• CC a manager if you need a little more muscle, but don’t over-do it. Keep things friendly.

Scenario 2:
1. Make a plan for myself
2. Determine what I am doing each day
3. Make it into a checklist
4. If I discover a new task, add it to the list and the timeline
5. If the plan shifts, then shift the plan, so I can tell if my plan is still feasible

The take-away from this is:
• Work a plan, so you don’t forget stuff
• When plans change, it is easier to make realistic decisions about timelines, if everything is in-front-of-you at-once

If your plans always work perfectly, this might seem like a waste-of-time. However, if you ever want to scale beyond a team of one (yourself). You need to have a written plan, so your teammates can prepare and coordinate. Also, some people are just hopeless optimists (or way-over-booked) and have trouble being realistic about timelines and ability to meet deadlines. A written plan is just rigid (and honest) enough to bring the needed amount of realism to the project timeline.

Even if you scoff at this type of process, I would say, give it a try once or twice. See if it made anything better. It is a trade-off and it is a new skill. It might even take you one step closer to elitism. Welcome.

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About Tim Golisch

I'm a geek. I do geeky things.
This entry was posted in IT Psychology, Lessons Learned, Professionalism, Team and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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