Leadership, management, goals
On efficient teams
Being inefficient is a waste of time - for you and others. Throughout my working life I identified the following simple operational reasons for inefficiency and the corresponding ways how to fix them.
1. Email as the ultimate “storage medium” for documents
|Keep documents and important communication threads only in your emailbox.
|Why is it wrong
|(1) There will be no structured access to documents and their versions that are spread over dozens of emails. There will be also no structured access to important communication on a particular topic because email is not a document storage system. Even if you a "Chuck Norris" on structuring your emailbox, it only means that you spend an unprecident amount of time labelling and moving around your emails. (2) You will also prohibit others from accessing important information because it is only in your email box. (3) This way of working will cause same documents being sent around many times causing confusions and inefficiency.
|Store document attachments and export important emails to a shared GDrive in a structured way. Notes: (1) Instead of or in combination with a shared GDrive, your company may use SharePoint, Contract Lifecycle Management systems or alike. (2) Exporting emails as PDF is preferred over .eml if most people in the company work with a browser version of the mail client and cannot easily view .eml files.
2. Mess on shared drives
|Quickly drop documents somewhere on a shared drive (with the aim to put them in order later).
|Why is it wrong
|Later will never come. But a mess will - inevitably.
|Every time when you need to store a document, take time to think where should you store it and why. In a long-term it pays off and is actually way faster than a messy storage approach.
3. Store documents locally
|Store documents that you create or that you download from emails on your local machine.
|Why is it wrong
|You introduce an incomplete additional storage of documents that no one has access to and that will die if your machine dies. You also miss to leverage the contribution of others in complementing and structuring important documents on a shared drive.
|Store all documents in a shared folder in a structured manner. This will allow others to use them and you will profit from contribution of work and content of other people.
4. Talking and that’s it
|Do not write meeting minutes during meetings.
|Why is it wrong
|Talking for an hour is great, but if you don’t write meeting minutes and do not send them around, the probability of misunderstanding and the probability that nothing will be done is almost 100%. It will also almost always results into repeating the same stuff again and again in the same meeting and over multiple meetings.
|Write meeting minutes - ideally directly during the meeting and sharing the screen so that everyone can check the facts, action items and responsibilities that are being documented. Even if you are not the organiser of the meeting, ask in the beginning who will be taking notes and if no one, then volunteer to do that.
5. Meeting minutes in the emailbox
|Writing and sending meeting minutes around is already a great thing. But leaving meeting minutes only in the emailbox will still cause troubles.
|Why is it wrong
|If you have several partners, projects, and employee groups that you communicate with, you will lose track. Also, besides meeting minutes there are usually many operational non-important emails which are hard to sort away to keep track of all important emails (unless you are super good on labels).
|Create a dedicated shared Google Doc (or Word doc on a SharePoint, or a Confluence page) for each project or working group or a collaboration with a partner and dump meeting minutes and other important information into this document every time. For accountability purposes and/or in case of an external counter party who has no access to your document, it is a must to send them around per mail in an addition.
Here is again a summary of best practices from the tables above:
- Store documents and export important emails to a shared GDrive in a structured way (as PDF preferred over .eml if most people in the company work with a browser version of the mail client).
- Every time when you need to store a document, take time to think where should you store it and why. In a long-term it pays off and is actually way faster than a messy storage approach.
- Store all documents only in shared folders in a structured manner (not on your local PC). This will allow others to use them and you will profit from the work and contributes of others.
- Write meeting minutes - ideally directly during the meeting and sharing the screen so that everyone can check the facts, action items and responsibilities that are being documented.
- Create a dedicated shared Google Doc for each project or working group or a collaboration with a partner and dump meeting minutes and other important information into this document every time. For accountability purposes and/or in case of an external counter party who has no access to your document, it is a must to send them around per mail in an addition.
Leadership is very similar to gardening. A gardener provides soil, water, and the access to the sun to plants, and they give fruits and flowers in return. Gardeners do not micromanage plants regarding which leaf to grow in which point in time and how to rotate the branches to get the most out of the sunlight.
Applying it to work: If you are missing anything (= soil, water, sun) to accomplish your goal (= grow flowers or vegetables), raise the voice and I will help you. Do not expect me to micromanage you. Micromanagement means usually that (1) the manager doesn’t trust employees (2) the manager doesn’t trust that employees can think (3) the manager actively tries to withdraw the responsibility to think from his employees. Any of these items is infinitely bad. And speaking about trust and “letting it go”, even when joining a new company, in a matter of days you find out who delivers and who is doing nothing. Thus, the time will inevitably show if an employee delivers on a constant basis or not - you don’t need to micromanage to know that.
On goal setting
A precise goal setting is crucial for success. To make a goal clear and avoid ambiguities, the following items must be defined:
- The Goal as a short title. Very important that this item is not sufficient if provided alone without items below. Thus, don't stop here!
- Why? is a motivation why on earth you want to achieve this goal.
- DoD (Definition of Done) specifies when would a goal be considered as achieved. It must be formulated as precise and as tengible as possible. Very-very often people discover forgotten aspects when they work on DoD.
- Output specifies what exactly must be produced in terms of documents, videos, code or alike to achieve the DoD.
- Outcome (Impact) defines which impact shall be achieved.
You can find more information on goal settings using the following resources:
On working together
I prefer to work in the following way with my direct reports:
- We set the goals together. While doing that, we ensure that we resolve ambiguities (if any).
- You are responsible for the execution. I will not micromanage what exactly you need to do to accomplish the goal. BUT: If you have any questions, if you need help or escalation, if you want to brainstorm or review, if you need an advice how to proceed - come at any point in time and I will help with everything I can.
- If you feel I am wrong anywhere, or you have a proposal how to make something more efficient or better, just tell me. I have no ego to accept that a proposal or a thought of another person is better. What matters is that we act in a efficient way and reach our targets. This concept is called "Meritocrity" and is very well described in the book "Principles" by Ray Dalio).
Am I 100% consistent in my daily work with what is stated above? Most probably not, but I am trying my best. If you feel that I am not holding up to my principles, just tell me.
Are the principles described above 100% correct and 100% complete? Mos probably not, but I am constantly improving them. If you have any feedback or input, reach out to me and let's discuss. I am very interested in polishing and extending them.