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Monday, October 31, 2011

Constant Connectedness

Today, we are constantly connected.   With the ease in which we can send and receive information, I wonder if we have fostered a culture of ADD, never fully concentrating on anything and therefore, never really doing anything well.
So what problem does this cause?  First of all, it severely limits productivity.  Secondly, it causes us to never fully engage in the task, or the meeting or must importantly, the person right in front of us.  Ever sat in a meeting and had no idea what was said because you were constantly checking your email on your blackberry?  When did this come back to bite you at work?  Ever had a co-worker come to talk to you about a work-related issue and you constantly kept looking at your computer at emails or your facebook page? How did this hurt your relationship with that co-worker or actually hurt your work outcomes?
What do we do about this constant connectedness? 
1.        Check your email, two- three times a day.  No more.  The Executive Briefing in HR Magazine suggests “e-mail free” times to help workers deal with information overload. Check your email at the beginning of the work day, before or after lunch and finally about an hour before leaving the office or end the workday.  
2.       Don’t take a device that allows you to be connected into a meeting if you can’t resist the urge to log on. 

By doing these two things, the majority of the day you aren’t connected because your email system is not “engaged”.  Therefore, you aren’t distracted when trying to complete other work.  Important tasks get completed and you can give meetings and people you’re with full attention because you aren’t constantly checking your inbox or the internet.

1)      If an email isn’t important or urgent, but needs some attention at some point, classify it as a task on your to-do list, assign it a date and forget about it until it pops up on that to-do list.  Attach important information you need to that task so you can be prepared with the information you need when you go to complete it, which also helps information overload.  In my next post I’ll talk more about considering urgency.

What do you do to manage your connectedness?  Where do you find it hardest to disconnect? 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Information Overload

An executive briefing titled “Too Much Information” in HR Magazine’s January 2011 issue stated, “62% (of workers) admitted that the quality of their work suffers at times because they can’t sort through the information they need fast enough.”  
“Some U.S. Professionals said they spend half their workday receiving and managing information.”   I am working with a company now that has a process for everything.  Because of the sheer multitude of information in the processes and the pace at which business is moving, when a process needs to be referenced to figure out how to perform a new task or operate a machine correctly, they don’t turn to the process because of information overload. Production workers feel like it takes too much time to find what they need to answer their question.  What took someone lots of time and thought in order to draft  standardized processes gets abandoned because it is simply what the workers see as too much information to deal with.   The Executive Briefing goes on to state, “to cope (with information overload), 91% of U.S. workers admit to deleting or discarding work information without reading it.”
The HR Magazine briefing goes on to state that “Nine of 10 U.S. professionals say they need to search for old e-mails or documents at least once a week and not being able to access the right information at the right time results in a huge waste of time.”
So in this age of information overload, what can we do to cope?  I suggest a few things:
1.       Have a mechanism for organizing your information.  For example, use your email system as a filing system to catalogue and store information that is easily accessible.
2.       Subscribe to services that condense relevant information to your industry or line of work into one email or publication instead of trying to read 7 newspapers, 8 blogs and 10 magazines related to your line of work a day.   For example,  because of the economic and workforce development work I do primarily in the manufacturing sector,  I’m a member of a group that sends me a Manufacturing News Daily that condenses relevant news.
3.       Set aside time to “unplug” everyday.  More on this in the next post, but in short, put your blackberry or your iphone or ipad and/or computer away so you aren’t checking emails constantly causing you to deal with information input constantly.

Please suggest more ways you have or can manage information overload!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Constant Connectedness and Information Overload

I had a realization the other day, I think I have work ADD.  I was frustrated that I couldn’t put my hands on the information I needed to complete a task.  I was constantly referring back to my inbox to find information I needed and with my Outlook open while I was working on the task, every time an email came in, what would I do?  Well open it and read it of course although none of them had anything to do with the task I was striving to complete!   
What is the problem here?  Bottom line, my productivity was being sabotaged.  As a result of:  1. Information Overload and 2.  Constant Connectedness.  The next two posts will address these issues separately by framing each issue and suggesting ways to deal with the problems.
But before these posts come, have you ever felt like you have work ADD because of these issues or others? What do you do to cope? 

Monday, October 10, 2011

80/20 Rule

In my last post, I identified key behaviors that a stand-out team leader at a production facility demonstrates.  One of these is the ability to get rid of the poor performers.   In an AIDT (Alabama Industrial Development Training) class I facilitate, one of the principles that seems to resonate most with participants is the 80/20 rule.  This rule, stemming from an economic principle developed by Pareto, emphasizes that 80% of your problems as a leader at work come from 20% of your people.  In essence, we end up leading by exception by spending all our time focusing on the “slackers” which, in turn, demotivates the 80%.  
Many find it hard to deal with poor performers.  Confrontation isn’t enjoyable for most, so we avoid it.   This avoidance leads to increased performance issues in the 20% because we don’t fix it when it starts, or even before it starts, and we end up neglecting those that deserve our attention the most- those that deserve to have their positive performance developed and rewarded.
So, how can we deal with this issue? The AIDT class emphasizes several things:
1.       When someone demonstrates a performance problem (showing up late to work, not meeting performance goals for example) address the problem immediately in private with that person individually.   Don’t bring it up to the entire team and don’t overlook it.
2.       View the progressive discipline process in place at your company as a way to actually motivate good performers by using it as a mechanism for getting rid of poor performers.
3.       Spend time rewarding and developing the 80% 80% of your time.  When you deal with the 20% immediately, you have time to do this.
Questions to consider:
1.       Is 80/20 accurate for your organization, or is the percentage of slackers less?  If it is less, what have you done to foster this? 
2.       How have you dealt with your “slackers” and what are results you have seen in doing so?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Job Model the Superstar

I’m working with a manufacturing company that is focused on developing its Team Leaders.  These Team Leaders are responsible for a particular unit of production work.   Recently, a team leader left, and the “best” team leader was given responsibility over the area that was left without a lead while continuing to maintain responsibility for his own area.   He doubled production in two weeks for the new area while maintaining strong production levels in his primary area.
In working to develop a way to measure, monitor and develop performance in these team leaders, we’ve decide to start by examining what makes this superstar team leader so successful.    After all, why would you want to develop performance measures for selection, training, and evaluation based on the mediocre? 
After some observation of this lead’s work here are some keys to his success as demonstrated through his behavior.
1.       He listens first and talks only when necessary.  When he does talk, it is positive.  He doesn’t complain. 
2.       He carries a small notepad around with him where he makes lists of work needed to be done and prioritizes accordingly.
3.       He stresses both quality and production to his people.  Some of his peers are so focused on getting production out the door that they sacrifice quality and are constantly plagued with re-work, thus facilitating the cycle of feeling like there isn’t enough time to get it all done.   In the superstar team leads world, there is enough time to get it all done and get it all done right because it is done right the first time.
4.       He assesses and coaches his subordinates as individuals.  Where one needs to be yelled at to motivate action, another needs to be quietly praised.  He figures this out and responds accordingly to drive results.
5.       He is specific in his instructions without being overbearing or micro-managing.  You won’t hear him say,  “I need you to try to get this done.”  He will say,  “This is to be done by Friday at Noon.”
6.       He asks questions and solicits feedback.  He will follow up with the statement,  “This is to be done by Friday at Noon” with, “What support do you need from me and our team to make sure this happens?”
7.       He gets rid of the poor performers (more on this in my next post).   After he has evaluated performance, worked to drive improvement and not seen it, he isn’t afraid to show them the door by firing them or helping them realize that this is not the right job for them.  Again, more on why this is important in my next post.
We’ll be taking these behaviors along with others and developing a competency model for team leaders.  We will then be using the competency model to drive the development of a performance evaluation and development matrix for the leads.  This will aid the company in selecting, evaluating and developing their talent.
To help us, what behaviors do your superstars demonstrate that drive performance?