Technology May be the Culprit
HBR research asserts that Technology has made it fast and cheap to communicate, but it is taking a heavy toll on our time. We are interrupted by phone calls, emails, and instant messages. Managers receive roughly 200 emails a day (30,000 per year), plus Instant Messages (IM’s) and posts from company social media feeds, plus the equivalent of one full day per week just coping with electronic communications.
Additionally, we attend more meetings and web conferences because it’s fast and cheap to conduct a meeting with people from anywhere in the world. Managers are now spending the equivalent of two full days per week attending meetings. Unfortunately, 15% of a company’s collective time is spent in meetings. When we summarize the forgoing, we spend one day typing emails and IMs, plus two days attending meetings, that leaves just two days in the week for us to do some actual work!
Recapture Some Time
Prune the Rosebush
Peter Drucker coined the term ‘purposeful abandonment’. If you want to grow your business; before you decide where and how to grow – the first thing you need to do is stop doing what’s not working and get rid of the outgrown, the obsolete, and the unproductive. Drucker said to ask yourself, “If we did not do this already, would we still get into it now?” At a minimum we must formulate, in a relevant way, some questions, like these:
1. Do you have a product, service, customer, or (________) that you know will be less relevant in the future?
2. Do you have ongoing projects, or (_______) that never quite seem to fulfill their original promise?
3. Do you have people who you know are not going to reach the required performance standard?
Less is More
It is said that Steve Jobs used to take his managers for off-site planning retreats to identify and rank the company’s top 10 strategic priorities. Members of the group competed intensely to get their ideas on the top 10 list. Jobs would then take a marker and cross out the bottom seven. “We can only do three,” he would announce. This gesture made it clear what the company would and would not do. You and your organization need to do the same thing.
Weekly Execution Meeting
When Alan Mulally became the CEO of Ford, he discovered that his senior executives spent too much time in meetings, so he quickly eliminated all unnecessary ones. However, he instituted a comprehensive weekly meeting called the Business Plan Review to review strategic progress and discuss performance. Even though this meeting takes half a day, it follows a standardized agenda where the status of Projects and KPIs are color coded, and everyone must arrive prepared to speak to their results. Harold Geneen, Chairman of the ITT Corporation conducted quarterly Business Plan reviews beginning in the early 1970s which preceded Mulally.
The appropriate people should meet, perhaps weekly, to review KPIs, Projects and Tasks. Good performance should be acknowledged and Poor performance should be discussed. Next steps (Tasks) must be agreed upon and documented. Everyone should leave the meeting with clarity about the one or two Tasks they need to complete in the coming week. Call it the “Weekly Alignment.”
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