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Getting Work Done Through People

November 04, 2011

We completed a survey this week on what are the biggest “pain points”
incurred in a position where you have to get work done through others,
e.g. you manage people (in addition to whatever else) for a living.
Guess what was number 1?

Well first let me tell you what was the 3rd most frequently cited pain:
#3 – Overwhelmed by incoming email and trying to use it to manage
people, but still not able to get updates in a timely manner.  Sound familiar?

And #2 – Linking work effort to a plan, particularly a strategic plan.
” Once strategic goals are set or projects launched, it is difficult to identify
and track what the action plan is and how it is progressing.  And if it isn’t
progressing well, to have the data available to determine what the
course correction should be.”

Have we covered what you thought was going to be #1 yet?  Here it is,
the #1 most commonly reported pain in managing people, is

“Getting people to spend a bigger % of their time generating
getting done what’s important.”

So why do we get so little productive time out of employees?
Here’s some thoughts about the reasons why:

1. Being too responsive to email.  Yes I said, “too responsive”.
Whether that’s checking frequently, or worse, getting notified as
soon as you have new email… it all creates a gigantic interruption
to staying focused on getting done what’s important.  Check out
this bit of statistics.  Bottom line, if you check email hourly or 8
times a day, you’re losing 2 hours of productivity
after you finish the email.  Yikes.

In 2007, a group of Microsoft workers took, on average,
15 minutes to return to serious mental tasks, such as
writing reports or computer code, after dealing with incoming
. They wandered off to reply to other messages or browse
the Web.  New York Times, 3/25/2007

2.  70% of us are working harder, but on what?  The Houston
Business Journal, 2/27/2006 reported that “
In general, a third
of all American workers could be viewed as chronically
Check out these two data points:

Are you too overworked to focus on your job?
Yes, 62.8%; Sometimes, 23%; No, 14.2%. 
Boston.com Internet poll, Spring 2005

71% of white-collar workers feel stressed about the amount
of information they must process and act on while doing business;
60% feel overwhelmed.   Institute of the Future, Menlo Park, CA

It looks like we are working harder and longer, but not at
what generates revenue, but at managing information and our
access to others, with all the interruption that creates in our
work flow.  We’re overworked… but get this, not focused on
our job.  So what are most people focused on, if not their job?
Fill in the blank, but I bet if you look it will be off managing the
next crisis, the next email, the next request, attending the next
meeting… you get the point.

It’s very apparent that working on what generates revenue is no
match in competing for out attention with the incoming email, IMs,
text messaging and meeting time on our schedule.  Time to spend
on priorities, on what moves the business concretely forward, just
loses over and over when it comes to a battle for our time and attention.

Guess what?… I going to get to a suggestion about how you can
change the game.

Part of the reason that time generating revenue gets de-prioritized,
is that most of us on any given day, don’t have a set of “move the
business forward” priorities. 

Guess what else?  Most people don’t naturally create that set of
priorities for themselves.  If you manage people, you have to.

Well actually you don’t have to, and you may in fact have all sorts
of reasons why “you shouldn’t have to,” but in fact if you want to
change the game, if you want to have your direct reports spend
more time on what will generate revenue, you have to make the
priorities really explicit.

You not only have to make priorities really clear, each day,
 you have to have a system for them to easily respond to the
priorities… so that you can easily check to see if they got done.
(Yes you have to check, to follow-up, otherwise the request or
deliverable loses intensity as a priority.)

Are you yelling, “No, it can’t be!” yet?  Most managers I know
don’t want to spend even a few minutes a day setting priorities
with their direct reports.

Bottom Line:
If you are in a management position, if you have to get work done
through others, than you’ll probably resonate with what we found
to be the biggest pain in the process, and that’s getting people to
spend a bigger % of their day on what generates revenue. 

In order to change the game, to get a bigger % of time spent on
what’s important, you have to reduce access to information
process (emails, IM, time spent in meetings), and increase the
vividness of today’s priorities… for each person you manage.
BTW, there is no better program that I have found to manage
people, than ManagePro
.    The ability to see the whole field,
all the projects, but then in one click to see what the person
walking through the door is responsible for and what they’ve
accomplished to date (including what they have done on
what you assigned them)… is priceless.


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