You Can’t Think With Your Tool Belt On® – 01/03/12

artwork toolbelt
The start of a new year is a good time to start new habits.

How many times have you heard the phrase "work smarter not harder?" How many people really know what smarter looks like? I believe the desire is there, but many people either don’t know how to improve in ways specific enough to their situation, or lack the time to figure it out.

Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

1. Invest the very first part of your day in yourself.
Concentrate on improvements that will make your days more satisfying while benefitting both you and your employer. If you are a manager, take this time for some strategic planning. If you are staff, use this time to strategically streamline the way you do things, or look for the cause of those fires you have to keep putting out.

2. Trim back the busy work. People don’t need meetings or reports; what they need are the results meetings provide. Many meetings provide no results at all. Do you really need a report, or do you need to make an informed decision?

3. Create forms and templates for repeat activities. Stop reinventing the wheel.

4. If you do have to chair a meeting or even attend one, arrive with an agenda and stick to the topic rather than drifting in another direction. The task of completing a meeting is not valuable. Producing or improving business results is. Stop leaving the conversations in the room.

This list just skims the surface. Next issue will provide additional techniques for working even smarter.

What are you doing to move to work of higher value?

© Wayne McKinnon 2012. All rights reserved.

About Wayne McKinnon

Wayne McKinnon works with organizations to change their course of evolutions from extinct to distinct
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6 Responses

  1. Ruslan Askerov

    Happy New Year!

    I agree with Wayne’s suggestions but would like to add that in most cases you forced to do something (for example reports or participate useless meetings) because of the environment or processes applied within an organization. As a staff member you don’t have a choice to change it. You can propose or suggest but the rest will be depend on your boss and how good he is willing to take changes or listen to you.

    As for me, you MUST believe in what you are doing. This is the only motivation which will move you forward, keep you interested in your field and finally shows you a real way of how to work smarter.

    You cannot benefit from using the best practices or appling latest technologies if you don’t beleive in what your doing and don’t understand why you doing this. Take 10 musicians and ask them to play the same melody, give them a script. Each of them will play it diffrently, in spite of there are just 7 notes and the same script. This is because of some of them believe and like what they are doing and some not.

    Believe in what you are doing or don’t do it!

    • Good to hear from you Ruslan.
      That’s a great response, and I encourage others to chime in.

      I somewhat disagree with the statement though that
      “in MOST cases you are FORCED to do something…”

      There are a minority of situations that applies to but in my experience, some people are afraid to question, but others may not realize that they can question and should. The trick is knowing when and how to go about it. Some times it is more appropriate to question in private. The way you ask is also important “help me understand this better”, or “if I could suggest ways to save time or provide better results, would you be interested, or should I just do X as you have asked?”

      I fully agree with your comment on believing in what you are doing. That’s exactly why I say that during my time working for a hospital in the 80’s “my job was to save lives.”

  2. Dave

    Thanks for the newsletter Wayne. Good stuff. I particularly believe in your statement. “Many meetings provide no results at all.”
    Most meeting leaders in departments don’t have a results focus or accountability to make the time invested payoff for the attendees. The attendees need to receive expected outcomes for their time from the leader.
    Continued success mon ami,

  3. Exactly!
    Thanks for adding that Dave.

    In terms of a meeting agenda, “we will discuss” is nothing compared to “these decisions will be made.”

  4. Ruslan Askerov

    Hi Wayne, thank you for the comments!

    I completely agree that you should ask questions and you should show your point of view if it’s different or if you know better practice of doing something. The question is will your question change the process? I think, it’s really depends on the size of organization (large organizations are more conservative to changes, comparing to small/medium organizations) and the motivation of the person who actually can approve and introduce these changes (some people just don’t like any change, even they understand the benefits). But this is from my experience. I glad to hear that I am wrong and most likely asking questions can change something. This is good!

    my 50 cents to the meeting discussion: I believe the best practice to handle meetings output is to create and track “meeting minutes”. This document contains information who was and wasn’t participated on the meeting, the meeting agenda, list of questions and discussions for each topic, list of open/parked items with person name accountable for this item and deadlines when the item must be resolved. Next meeting should start from reviewing “meeting minutes” from the previous meeting and updating the results. In most cases you need to have a dedicated person who will sit at the meeting and will keep meeting log, but this will pay you back providing history of discussions and helping to analyze and understand value/results of each meeting.

  5. Ruslan, I wouldn’t say that you are wrong, and one can certainly generalize about the size of an organization, but even in the largest, I have seen pockets of innovation and excellence at the hands of a great leader.

    Great leaders appreciate people who ask the right questions and push back when appropriate. Unfortunately there are many in leadership positions who are not leaders at all, and do not appreciate any degree of push back. Likewise there are people that push back tediously at each and every step of insignificant detail. The trick is to know when to push back and what is not worth pushing back on.

    From what I know of you, you will make a great leader. You’ve made some good points.


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