Category Archives: Management Tools

Micromanage Self!

There is a Chinese proverb “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still”.  We would never find a problem in employees that solve problems , are result oriented and are just good at there job , but this same attitude prevents one from being effective.

Steven Covey once summed it up that “We accomplish all what we do through delegation – either to time or to other people” . So yes one can do anything but not everything! It is important that one delegates to create space and opportunity both for self or individual. It helps find time for self and allows people around you to grow.

There are some approaches that can help one to get into the above mode. In general and at large hiring good talent is key to the process of delegation followed by a loose boundary of guard-rails with a let-it go attitude. Holding too tight to something is most severe damage one can to your own prospect or team morale.

Here are quick approach directions to think and dwell upon:

  1. Resource to work relationship is of that which has least friction. Find natural alignment of talent to type of work. Trying to over-train somebody into a role , can sometimes be self-defeating goal. Generally people do not speak up , but it is true , everybody is not meant to do everything !
  2. Set absolute performance benchmarks and guidelines but do not take away element of discretion in your management approach.  Be a minimalist who gives enough for people to deduce , operate and deliver.
  3. Play out your bets in conjunction to insight # 1. World is not a perfect place & therefore one has to try it out. Trying out people will allow you to either get better folks than you or may be they fail. If they fail , then one needs to take that as temporal set-back and focus on absolute performance.

Do not be a mechanical  about your choices and over-trying one option for delegation is not an option , that is termed more a fearful move to avoid failure ! In end , if you do not micromanage self , you will not identify streams that can be mapped out and get an understanding when to fan-in versus out!

Gamify Time Management

Sometimes life is too chaotic for one to make any sense. Although you are not over-worked or spending sleepless nights but still you find yourself in midst of a battlefield filled with conflicting priorities. Managing under such circumstances is not stress and sometimes can lead to conflict within team members as well.

Among the time management tools and concepts available to us, the urgent-important matrix is one of the most helpful. I had talked about it long ago in one of my blogs Urgent v/s Important Matrix , but am revising this today with more perspectives which I build with my team members who have started using this as a way to communicate and align to each other for creating maximum focus and momentum on goals that are important to them as well across the group

I would have not done a good job of providing some history around this simple tool , so for the inquisitive one here is the background on how this framework or concept came into being:

“This concept was popularised by Stephen Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but it was actually used by U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower long before Covey made it famous. That’s why this method is also often referred to as the Eisenhower Matrix. “

img_20160911_191647

Multiple Figures

My objective of using the matrix is not only to organise self but also try to find management synergy across the teams and us this as a tool for alignment between various people trying to work in an agile and shared environment.

First figure explains principles of management around how to create Focus on urgent and important tasks and use power of delegation to deal with things that might not be important but are urgent. Delegation allows those tasks to be attended for as they are urgent but via a different resource pool for whom it becomes a focus a area. Imagine this as a connected web of focused tasks.

While I recommend to use power of negotiation to determine whether Important but rather not urgent task should have your mind-share or can it be moved to a zone of backlog which is not urgent and not important. In turn imply Kanban then to manage backlog.

At all times your focus area or rather urgent and important task list should be lean with a constant decision making process to shift them through various traversal paths as shown in last figure in my napkin notes. The idea is to keep the list lean , eliminate tasks by using power of negotiation and delegation. Create backlog and then manage it effectively to feed back your focus areas.

The second figure in my notes is kind of interesting illustration on how agile play into this and what velocity you should maintain at times deal with quadrants. Focus with high velocity to burn your urgent and important task. Most important to achieve business goals (Learn fast / fail fast). Negotiation will be a slow burn process whilst backlog tends to remain still. It is important to note that we should maintain high velocity for for urgent but not important tasks as they have a burden on your system and you would not want the focus areas to be impacted at any times by this quadrant. That is why power of delegation along with right skill sets tends to help a lot while we deal with this quadrant.

Hope you find these new explanations and illustrations useful while you manage your work or even for that matter personal life. I like to see this as gamification of work that adds a fun element when various team members talk this language and create a momentum that is required to execute business operations in a steadfast mode.

Team Ramp-up Strategies

An easy tool to guide team ramp-ups by ranking initiatives. One can start with low risk and move towards higher rewards to make teams successful as they ramp-up. There are some risky paths which should be avoided , specifically in category of high risk that can put business at risk if we put complex task with new teams very early in the game. The matrix is self-explanatory and one can charter their team’s paths / road-maps by trying a couple of combinations.

Team Ramp-up

3P & Evernote

In one of my previous posts titled efficient collaboration , I had talked about using  Evernote and Dropbox for getting head start in agile collaboration.

I use a 3P model ( Progress , Priority , Problem ) limited to not more than 4 points per section as a note structure in Evernote for every team member to remain on top of their priorities and report effectively on the progress made on key items aligned towards over-all goal of the team on weekly basis. I have every team member create a note for themselves and report in this common format.This is shared across the team through a notebook using Evernote.

What this allows me to do is :

  • Creates transparency for all team members
  • Identify any prioritization conflicts across team resources
  • Quickly adjust our goals in-line with current targets
  • Collate and report to business in a concise manner
  • Attack and resolve problems to make way for progress and focus on the priorities

I try to keep things simple and frugal to extent possible. Hope folks reading this find it useful in managing their team interactions.

Efficient Collaboration

We all have come across various companies that use shared drives & managers deploying simple XL sheets to have team members update their task list. With growing mobility and dispersal of working groups across geographies , it becomes very inefficient to access most of our data across platforms and systems on daily basis.

Some obvious questions one would want to answer is…How-to….

  • Find all the information related to a specific task?
  • Increase transparency with group members
  • Effect prioritization and task tracking at minimum viable level without too much of tool hassle
  • Collaborate across dispersed locations & teams
  • How to store and share my favorite SQL query recipes across teams 🙂

I effectively manage above challenges by employing Evernote and Dropbox. Teams have share structures on Dropbox which enable seamless sharing of information across various devices and allows me to be in touch with my team members on shared documents which we are working on. Evernote allows me to maintain all notes related to common topics , SQL queries and 1×1 through shared notebook and I can find these with great features like tagging within Evernote.

If you want to be up and running in a manner that supports agile thinking , I would highly recommend using Evernote and Dropbox in tandem to help build efficient teams with improved collaboration.

Urgent v/s Important Matrix

It’s been time since I wrote something and much is attributed to my own inability to manage as well as do things which I would love to do. This post is a reflection of a tool which can help all of us (including me) to remain focused. Nothing which I invented but again as I said earlier, my posts are more about what I learn/observe or get as guidance from my peers in industry. The tool carries a little treatment from principles of mathematics and how I wonder that this subject finds its way in almost everything which we do!!

Ever thought of prioritizing your tasks and making an effort to remain on-course to complete what you aimed for? We all start our day with an activity list. Some make it in form of notes whilst other would end with making a mind map of it but everybody does have a loose sense of what they are going to do. If you were to survey people and ask them what percentage of activity they really got accomplished, I am sure with certain level of confidence that it would not be a very great percentage to be pleased about personally.

We may start our day by reaching office, engage ourselves with some kind of beverage (non-alcoholic!!) and look at our list of activities. One gets to start to try and accomplish what he embarked upon just to be interrupted by an urgent work which his / her boss handed over just now and needs by noon before lunch!!! And yes this is the start of the end of your prioritization because now you have something which did not find place when you actually planned your day.

It is hard to make somebody visualize this, so I will draw a rough picture of what I am about to explain:

Urgent v/s Importan Matrix

The tool itself is very simple treatment of scatter chart and does not much explain once drawn, so I would not spend time explain what is shown above but would recommend a fun exercise to graph your activity chart on this matrix and see how it helps you to remain focused by clustering similar activities together in quadrants of urgent v/s important. When you see yourself doing this against a timeline chart it allows you derive goals, which can span from being daily to whatever time horizon you wished for.

One would argue how this can stem the sudden inclusion of tasks that disturb our schedule? , well the beauty of this is that it shows how much you deviate and how long you keep deviating by certain occurrence of tasks that necessarily when you analyze may not always turn out to be for example hitting the first quadrant right away. We generally tend to have impulsive reaction to what we get on ad-hoc basis and don’t process information is usual manner considering either time paucity or in general inability to either say “No” or setting right expectation about when we would be able to respect that activity with our time. We have tendency to forget that our time box is only as much that quadrant will map out or show, and there is no concept of infinity applied to it!!! , thus leading to stretched hours and undue stress to complete our work. In the end we end up having what we call competing priorities with no rules. The ability to think through in the manner explained above may help us provide some ground rules on how to make our priorities compete for the one common resource “Our Time”.