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Clearview® Performance Systems brings you ... ... a Culture of Results & Engagement™

Managerial TIPS*

Proven High Value Activities (HVAs)

[ *Techniques/Insights/Practical Solutions ]

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #50

Is There a Difference Between Chronically Disorganized and Organized Chaos?

Could there be a modicum of truth in Albert Einstein's famous quote ...

"If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?"

Apparently, a few other geniuses think the same way because Mark Twain, Tina Fey, Thomas Edison, and Steve Jobs all have or had famously messy desks. It appears that geniuses have something better to do than fiddling around with systems that require 'a place for everything and everything in its place!'

Thomas Edison

Steve Jobs (in his home office)

Albert Einstein

Tina Fey

Now before you jump to the conclusion that I am an advocate for a cluttered desk, that's not where I'm heading with this issue of CORE Bites. Read on ...

I had a senior leader contact me recently to ask for advice on how to help someone on his team who is disorganized. When I asked him to define what he meant by "disorganized," he replied with the typical things one would expect—the individual has a messy desk piled with papers and reports; no systems for filing or organizing; and he always looks flustered as he works.

We chatted for a few minutes about the various styles and approaches that exist in how people organize themselves and then I asked him the question that quickly gets to the crux of the quandary—especially when managing a workgroup with diverse skills and job functions:

"Does this person deliver consistent results?"

If you currently (or in the future) supervise someone who appears "disorganized" but you're still able to respond to the aforementioned question with "Yes, this person delivers consistent results." then HVA #1 is for you. If, however, your response is "No, this person's results are inconsistent with frequent deadlines not met." then HVA #2 is your best option.

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

This week (starting today), monitor the planning process used by each of your employees and compare that process with the quality of their output. If there are any inconsistencies, use the relevant HVA below:

HVA #1: If Your "Disorganized" Employee Delivers Consistent Results:

  • Examine Your Pain Tolerance: Even if you're not the type of person with a perfectly tidy desk and a perfectly ordered to-do list, it can be frustrating to supervise someone who appears disorganized. The question though—considering this individual actually delivers solid results—is why do you want this employee to adopt a different approach to organizing his or her workflow? Is it for the employee's benefit ... or for yours? With the exception of customer-facing environments, where image is important, perhaps this employee's results should speak for themselves and you should let this go. Yes, that means you'll need to increase your 'pain tolerance' a tad, but with this extra time you can now concentrate on other more important challenges.
  • Be Open to Other Organizing Styles: I've worked with dozens of people in my past who had desks piled high with clutter and, yet, could pull a needed document out of the disorganized maelstrom on a moments notice. Just because it looks disorganized to you doesn't mean there isn't a system behind the chaos.
  • Be Open to Other Organizing Tools: As someone who's totally enthralled by the myriad electronic organizing tools available to help increase efficiency, I feel compelled to 'share' this passion with any individual who is more comfortable using 'analog' approaches to staying organized. For example, my 91 year-old mother-in-law has an extremely active social calendar and is always on the go (and we love her energy!). When we gifted her an iPad, I set out to show her all of the benefits of staying organized electronically. While I fully expected she would share my excitement and throw away her pen and paper calendaring system, that didn't happen—not even close. But here's the moral of the story: she is never late; she never misses an appointment; she is the perfect timekeeper ... even though her system is different than the one I use. So, instead of being critical of someone else's approach to staying organized, perhaps your question should be "What tools work BEST for YOU to help you stay organized?"

HVA #2: If Your "Disorganized" Employee Delivers Inconsistent Results:

  • The Minute Hand Moves Faster than You Think: One of the more common characteristics of disorganized workers is an inability to properly allocate the time needed to complete their tasks. They can't prioritize simply because they have a very poor gauge of the time involved to complete the various stages of their work. If this is the case, help employees learn how to break down their assignments into smaller, bite-sized pieces. Before any work begins, you and your employee should sit down together and lay out the project management milestones, goals, and deliverables. Consider using the Step It! Planning System or some other type of Work-In-Progress (WIP) spreadsheet to help him/her prioritize tasks/projects and stay on track.
  • Anticipate Problems: If you're intimate with the work your employees do, you can probably predict workflow patterns—when and where the speed bumps and hurdles are likely to occur. For projects with a critical end date, create an earlier start time to ensure successful completion. Another powerful technique is to set deadlines but only for the major components of the project—not the final due date. By monitoring the completion of each of these major components, you'll be able to reinsert yourself into the project if there appears to be a slowdown occurring.

I'd love to hear how this HVA works for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"Getting organized is not about moving from procrastination to perfection. It is about being the most productive person you can be."

— Neil Dempster —