The main reason why people can’t get work done at work are managers and meetings. That’s Jason Fried’s take on things as he exposes it in his latest TEDx Talk. He lays out the main problems to getting work done and presents three suggestions to making work work.
No Talk Thursdays: He actually suggests a compromise of one Thursday afternoon a month where no one disturbs anyone so that all can focus on getting things done.
I am fortunate that though I work in an office, it is a small office and I can often get quite a few hours of uninterrupted work time. I can actually sometimes get 3 to 4 hours without being disturbed, usually about once a week. This uninterrupted time is necessary for me when I need to analyse complex problems or systems, or work on a larger, more complex project.
Passive Models of Communication: Instead of interrupting people to have a face-to-face discussion about something, send an email or an IM. This reduces the instances of interrupting reflections, thoughts, a creative moment. The passive model allows for people to respond when they are ready to switch gears and respond to you.
This is my preferred mode of communication when dealing with dispatching tasks or requesting information. I had received a comment earlier this year that it could be perceived as impersonnal, which is a valid remark. I therefore took the time to approach the individuals that I exchange with to explain to them why I preferred communicating the bulk of work related information by email. They agreed and even told me that they appreciated the lack of interruption, especially the administrative staff who work in the open spaces and are constantly interrupted.
Cancel the Next Meeting: He doesn’t suggest postponing it. He suggests cancelling it all together. According to Fried, managers call too many meetings which are a waste of employee’s productive time. He relates that what managers talk about at meetings is usually not as important to company productivity than the managers think it is.
On this one, I only meet Fried halfway. If we are going to move to a mode of passive communication and no-talk periods to let people focus on their work, there needs to be a moment where we all get together and communicate face-to-face. That said, I think that the face-to-face time needs to be used wisely to do the things that are less well done in writing.
“Is she out of her mind?”, you ask yourself. Nope! And neither is Stephen Shapiro who wrote a great bit on How To Motivate Innovators.
Stop recognizing people for doing their job. When you hire someone to work for you, it should be expected that they are competent. When you recognize people for doing what they are hired to do, it reinforces a “culture” where the status quo is good enough.
Instead, recognize (and reward) people for going beyond their job; for doing things that are unexpected.
If you wish to develop a culture of innovation within your organization, you are going to have to reward what I call productive disruption. Productive disruption, in my mind, is an attempt at doing things differently while taking into account risks and with the mindset of wanting to improve upon something. It isn’t always successful, but it always generates discourse and reflection.
If you want to encourage open innovation or cross-business unit collaboration, then recognize people for that. If you want employees to take risks, make a big deal out of individuals who do that. If you want to let people know that failure is ok – when done the right way – then promote situations where something didn’t work as planned yet powerful lessons were learned and risk was mitigated risk.
Define what your organization values and then reward on that.
Couldn’t agree more. The idea that errors aren’t punished but rather become case studies is refreshing. I have been fortunate to work in such environments where I can learn from my errors and in looking for solutions to overcome them, learn and innovate.
According to Ron Ashkenas, most managers actually like meetings, and he enumerates the reasons in a recent blog post entitled Why We Secretly Love Meetings.
His key arguments are that:
They encourage social interaction
They keep everyone in the loop
They often represent status
He also remarks that though we all know the rules of conducting a good meeting such as being upfront and clear about objectives, making sure the right people are attending, having an agenda in advance and so on, we often fail at respecting these rules.
Their statistics indicate that employees are doing more job training off-the-job and off-hours resulting in higher current productivity numbers. Supervisors in particular, are gaining job skills for both today and tomorrow before or after work, at home and on weekends.
Since the research shows that productivity increases when managers take training on their own time, the most successful managers will have to sacrifice more of their personal time to enhance their knowledge and skills. This of course is going to affect the work-life balance, which might potentially come back and have long term negative effects on productivity.
Reni Gorman points out that the use of microblogging in education is a recent area of interest compared to the uses of microblogging as a communication channel for news or marketing.
In a literature review on microblogging, learning and performance in the workplace, she explains that the research around microblogging tools like Twitter is directed towards using such tools as fostering informal learning and staying in touch with a support group to foster lifelong learning. She states however that research that examines the potential of microblogs with regard to learning and performance in the workplace is currently lacking and proposes a table of contents for a study.
Boston College Associate Professor of Education Laura O’Dwyer reported that:
“The studies also show that teacher participation in online professional development can translate into improvements in targeted student outcomes.”
In addition, study Director Lynch School Associate Professor Michael Russell stated that:
“Given the positive effects found across these studies, it is reasonable to expect that on-line professional development is an effective strategy for supporting teaching in difficult-to-staff content areas, like mathematics and science.”
One could easily transpose these findings to the workplace training world and make a case for the importance of professional development of training professionals. The more we know, the more we can help.
Ever feel completely wiped at the end of of a work day? According to Nemo Chu, a neuroscientist might offer the following explanation:
The brain, despite being just ~2% of our body’s mass, actually accounts for ~20% of our body’s total energy consumption.
What is 20%? To put that in perspective, that’s like having a 20-watt light bulb burning in our heads. And that’s when we’re doing nothing. In other words, our brains are burning 20% of our body’s energy while we’re in our resting state.
Not only does our brain demand a lot of energy, but much like the rest of our body, it has been biologically programmed to try and conserve energy. But in today’s knowledge economy, more and more demands are being put on our brains and, in turn, the more and more our brains want to conserve.
So how does this impact trainers? According to Chu:
The 21st-century workplace is a cognitive battleground, and if training and development professionals want to do battle there with their workshops and PowerPoint slides, be ready to face a lot of opposition.
For some organizations, knowledge workers simply aren’t ready to learn in the workplace.
Chu advocates making learning material accessible for individual to learn when they are ready to learn, when their brains are more rested and not being sollicited by whatever else is going on in the workplace. In fact, Chu advocates developping learning content for mobile devices for anytime, anywhere access.
This feeling of connectedness creates more engagement on your part so you continue to answer Yammer’s question: “What are you working on?” Soon, people see your updates and reach out to help you, you see others’ updates and reach out to help them. It is like you belong to one big Borg brain (if you are a StarTrek fan).
Gorman pegs Yammer as a tool that captures context, content and experts and she is right on the money. In my opinion however, it has one small little drawback: you have to search Yammer to get the entire picture of who’s working on what.
Enter Enterprise Collaboration Tools from Brainpark which aim at making the workplace more collaborative, transparent and efficient by injecting information into the workflow. You no longer need to search for who is working on the same thing as you; the right information is pushed to you at the right time, creating what Brainpark calls business sense. The Brainpark model is making waves, earning the technology industry’s prestigious Red Herring Global 100 Award.
In a recent blog post, Harvard Business Review’s Jeanne C Meister and Karie Willyerd advocate using microblogging to enable the members of an organization to communicate and share information with one another more rapidly and efficiently than ever before.
So what exactly is microblogging? It is the practice of posting very short statements, commonly 140 characters or less, via a microblogging service such as Twitter.
However, because the objective is to communicate internally within an organization, Twitter, which broadcasts in a public realm, isn’t going to be very good for sharing enterprise information. Enterprise social software such as Yammer will allow you to recreate a private social network for your organization and keep the information contained.
Meister & Willyerd suggest that if you are considering implementing microblogging within your organization, there are three lessons to consider:
Start small and monitor results.
Provide training to employees.
Integrate Microblogging into your workflow.
By strategically implementing microblogging in your organization, you leverage the social media savvy of your Tweeters and cut down on the time and effort to disseminate and gather enterprise information. Two birds, one stone!