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Time management - Where are we going?



Where are we going?

The purpose

Information in-tray

We have mentioned the idea of ‘purpose’ in the context of dealing with incoming information. If you know what the purpose is you can decide better what you need to do with it next. That is, ‘dispose’, ‘delegate’, ‘delay’ or ‘act’ upon it in some fashion etc.

If the purpose is unclear it doesn’t mean it automatically goes into the dispose file. If we are unclear we may need to seek clarity.
We would naturally try to iron out any ambiguities before dealing with it. There is a lot of self interest here. There is nothing worse than acting upon a document only to find you have misinterpreted its meaning necessitating additional work.

We have a habit of asking the question ‘where are we going’ when it is our immediate interest but we tend to be a little shy in other arenas.
Defining the purpose is more commonly called the objective.

Meetings

How many times have you been to a meeting where you are fed up, don’t know what the purpose is, come away not knowing what you are meant to do next?
You may even dread turning up for the meeting as the agenda is poor or non existent.
This lack of clarity is debilitating and saps peoples energy levels and actively de-motivates.

Yes, the chairperson may be poor in the way he runs the meeting and how he develops agendas but he is not the only one at the meeting.
It is in everyone’s interest to find out ‘where are we going’, that is ‘what is the purpose’. Define this accurately and a lot of the other aspects will fall into place.
Meetings are discussed in more detail elsewhere, see ‘meetings 1’ and ‘meetings 2’.

Success measures

The very act of defining an accurate purpose for anything tells you what you need to do and hence the ability to derive criteria for knowing when you have achieved the purpose. Without a well defined or clear purpose this is not possible.

Define the criteria by which you will measure your success.

Focus

Once everyone is comfortable with the objective their energy levels, powers of concentration and output improves.
People will want to contribute. You will want to complete those tasks in your in-tray because it will be clear when you have completed them.

Once an objective has been agreed don’t put it on the back burner. Frequently refer to it to keep the group focussed. If you want to make a decision refer to its fit with your objective. If you reach a critical milestone does the data match the objective?
Why not refer to the objective at the start of the meeting?
Remind your self of the objective as you compile the report so as not to go off track.

Motivation

Once everyone is on the same wavelength staff motivation will rapidly improve.
Remember that the mere presence of an objective does not endorse the existence of the meeting.
You must still justify the meeting, persons attending and the frequency etc.

Creativity

If you organise a meeting and you turn up and state the objective right at the beginning you will not have a lot of success.

Why?

  • Not giving others the opportunity to agree the objective shuts them out and leaves them far less committed.
  • It robs the group of the opportunity to explore the objective more fully.

Let’s look at a possible objective.

‘We wish to increase profits by 50% over the next 12 months as measured by an external audit.’

The objective has an outcome, a time period and a way of measuring if we get there.

Such an objective if open to debate and agreement can lead to more creative thinking of the ‘problem’.

A problem can be defined as:

‘A hurdle requiring a solution in order to achieve a goal.’

The overall goal could be ‘to achieve company profits of £100,000 per annum in 2 years.’

This simple scenario could raise questions.

Why 50%, why not 40% or 60%?

Surely this is not a figure plucked out of the air. What is the underlying justification?
Understanding this can lead to a view on possible success.
What increase in sales are required to achieve this etc?

Could this actually be achieved in 9 months?

If we instigated certain systems and supported this with additional staff is this possible? In other words what is the justification, what could we do if we looked at other options?

What is the external audit, what form will it take?

Do we need to wait for this? Can we assess the situation in another way?

In other words, asking the question ‘what is the justification?’ opens the door to new views and possible options.
One way of achieving this is to use a ‘brainstorm’ technique.

Visualise

Don’t just have an objective try to visualise what it will mean and communicate it.
Try to create a picture of the future.

You are not just increasing the profits by 50% you will be improving company efficiency, improving company standing for investors and perhaps maintaining jobs or increasing performance bonuses.
What are the personal benefits?

  • More job security?
  • Increased bonuses and pay?
  • Improved personal circumstances?

We know that to fix something in someone’s mind it helps to visualise the item as a picture.
A similar technique has been used widely to remember a series of items by associating pictures.
People will be committed to the objective if they can see its true meaning, that is, ‘what it means for them personally.’

Non - PRINCE2 information