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Chunking the Work Process and the Role of Comfort

January 19, 2010

I’ve been swamped with a large international project for the past few months,
and blogging as well as a few other things, have all had to take a back seat.
One thing I have been itching to write about it seeing how individuals manage
and translate information into a preferred work style.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written, you know that I am in favor of setting
clear outcome goals and then translating the embedded assumptions and
action steps into a set of chunks or small deliverables.  Why?  For me it’s all
about what helps people be most effective at getting things done.  But that
has to do with what drives me, which is likely not what drives you.

That’s what this blog is about today.  It’s about what drives you and how
that affects your work.

Lately I realize how much we are all driven by something.  For me its a
number of things, including getting to make an impact, use my gifts and
tools in my toolbox, having the opportunity to knock the ball out of the park,
working smart and working with people I enjoy.

But perhaps the biggest insight lately is to realize how much achievement
drives my behavior… and doesn’t drive lots of other people.  Oh, its not that
people don’t want to work, or get things accomplished, it’s just that
achievement isn’t the largest or prominent driver for them.

Guess what is.  What would you say drives most of the world at work?

What I keep noticing is that comfort or the avoidance of discomfort is the
biggest shaper for how most people I work with around the world behave.
It permeates the choices we all make, even effecting how we manage
information and approach chunking projects and deliverables into a set of
daily tasks.

Take managing information and working projects for instance.  I find myself
driven by wanting to adopt what works best, and I’m constantly checking or
cross checking if we’re on a trajectory to hit the outcome, and if not I want to
make a course correction.  Why?  Because that’s what I am most comfortable with.

For many, what emerges is a different pattern, one where comfort isn’t tied to
cross checking to see if they are on track, but instead to verify that they are
operating in a known pattern, and justifying that position if needed.  Here are
a couple of examples:

1. Some people are most comfortable in managing information and work by
approaching it in what I call the “librarian” style.  Whether they use post-it
notes or have an elaborate coding system, they approach comfort at work
as a state in which everything is identified, categorized, defined…   Having a
developed taxonomy is their way of chunking the work process.

2. Other people approach work and information by limiting their focus to the
next task.  What’s next, what do you want me to do?  There is no over-
arching categorization.  Managing work and the information in it is most
comfortable when perceived as a rolodex of todos, which when one is finished,
you just turn to the next.

3.  Still others are most comfortable when they dive deeply into the details,
scenarios, implications and deeper recesses of possibilities.  They enjoy
gathering and stating knowledge, writing technical manuals, knowing the
theory, and the theorist’s name.  Comfort is the ability to know and be able
to declare a lot.

Bottom Line:

It pays to take a look at what shapes your comfort meter, as it significantly
drives your behavior at work and ultimately your outcomes.  It would be
strategic of you to ask yourself this question as we embark on another year…
“Is what I comfortably adopt as a work style, and information management
style, really related to being successful?  Or does my comfort meter get in
the way of my ability to accomplish what I want… or say I want?”

Being Successful using Chunks
Technology for Translating Work into Track-able Chunks

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