I’m Busy, They’ll Figure It Out

Sixth in a series about communication and change management

We can’t manage time.

We can’t manage five minutes and turn it into six. We can’t manage information overload – if we tried our heads would explode every time we walked into a library. We don’t manage priorities, we have them.

We can decide what to focus on and how we spend our time.

Alice's White Rabbit

We can’t manage time, but we can manager our focus

Those things we choose to spend our time and attention on are more likely to be successful than those we don’t. Yet some of us seem determined to try to do everything that comes along, whether or not it aligns with our work and our lives. There may be many reasons for this behaviour. The result is often stress, failure, and shame.

You can’t create more time. You have to budget the time you we do have. Decide what you must, should, and want to do with your time. More importantly decide what you’re NOT going to do.

If your objective is to make a program or initiative fail, then you don’t need to make the sometimes difficult decisions about what other things you’re not going to spend your time and attention on. Just let it happen by default. Because you’re too busy.

Here’s the paradox. As managers we get things done through other people. Managing people take a lot of time and effort. Maybe even more than managing ourselves. Which can be a pain. If people did what they were supposed to, being a leader would be a lot easier.

One of things that can’t get ignored by default are the human relationship aspects of your job. I think it should be near the top, in fact. You can’t ignore the people part, building trust, and then get mad when the projects executed by those people fail.

There’s no point in being so busy that you don’t check in on a project, program, or initiative only to find out in the last two weeks of a three month effort that you’re two months away from finishing it. Now you’re going to be spending the next two weeks pulling that particular set of chestnuts out of the fire. While you ignore your other work. Tell me again why we’re so busy?

Fix #6 Have a Rhythm

Clear responsibilities, hysterical transparency, and regular reviews drive accountability. Getting things done doesn’t mean doing everything yourself. Getting things done means planning and delegating the work, keeping track of progress on a regular basis, and reporting on that progress.

Consider maintaining a”relationship” with the projects you’re accountable for, as well as the people you work with. Regular, habitual check-ins, meetings, or status updates are the best means of keeping a project on track.

Establish a rhythm lets you stay up-to-speed on what’s happening with all the work and your team. Ideally once a week. Once a day if that’s appropriate for a critical, complex, or large project.

If your check-ins are once a week, and the work is more than two weeks in duration, then break the work into two week chunks. With tangible, deliverable results at the end of each. This could be a report, a presentation, a manufactured good, a software release, a construction milestone, a signed contract, etc. Something real.

Two weeks is a nice way to break up the time. In the first week something should be started, and in the second they should have finished. Now you can verify progress. There is a report, a presentation, or other work product the shows progress. Not started? Okay – what’s the hold up? Finished now? Good – where’s the deliverable?

This is one example of how to design a project to provide the clear responsibilities and transparency.

You can deliberately build in the rhythm that allows you to manage, direct, and oversee the work. Or you can spend more time later cleaning up the mess. Your choice.

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