I am resurfacing a list that I put together years back that still holds true.
Back then I was in small agency and lean startup environments and when I started working in larger organization I referenced this list when I started getting off track and feeling overwhelmed with work.
I have seen employers foolishly hire additional staff… thinking it is a work load issue. More than often, its not the work – it might be people’s work habits and time management.
As a startup business owner, take charge and own the work processes of the people you hired and help them become more efficient. It will help your bottom line and their piece of mind too!
Scan and Preview
No business stops after the doors close. People hired on salary that are high achievers truly understand the balance of preparing for work and then being more efficient during their work day.
If you have time on your commute and periodically during the day, use your mobile phone to scan your work emails.
You don’t have to respond, but when people mention their email you have a clue what is going on and they don’t have to catch you up.
Go Digital or Go Home.
Are you still bringing a paper and pencil to meetings?
Wake up, it’s the 20th century and that is why tablet and mobile phones were invented.
This isn’t about “my preference” or being able to doodle and sketch, adoption of digital note-taking is a “must have” for any startup and a highly efficient move for startups.
Meeting time is necessary to coordinate the work team and assign tasks and dates.
Instead of taking written notes (that you then have to enter back in on your computer), force everyone to schedule their tasks AT the meeting.
They can use their own personal task management tool BEFORE they leave and the project lead should also be updating the project schedule as well.
Set an automated reminder for each task.
All meetings should have an agenda and goals
How many times have you gone to meetings and didn’t have a clue what to prepare or the point of the meeting?
Every meeting, even with just two people, should have clear goals and outcomes shared before the meeting. If you don’t have any – then don’t meet.
Know that every time you invite someone to a meeting, you are essentially paying for their billable rate.
It’s overhead. Cut it down and keep meetings concise and make sure people are prepared BEFORE the meeting with some solutions to discuss.
If the meeting is just about making people feel good, don’t have it – send an update in an email. Meetings are collaboration time to work out solutions and have one at the end of the meeting or set up another.
If people keep creating meetings with no agenda – start taking it out of the paycheck. They’ll get the idea quickly.
Start meetings on time
I don’t hate the people that come late, I hate the people that wait for them. Each person is accountable for their own actions.
If they come late, who cares – don’t back track, keep going and make that person bother someone else on the team to find out what they missed or send out notes after the meeting.
By not aiding this bad behavior, you might see it quickly go away.
And being late is not always a bad behavior, maybe that person is trying to be efficient and finishing up something that might take 3 times longer after the meeting.
Or, they absorb things quick and don’t need to be in meetings and rather read the notes. Let them decide. If you schedule a 30 minute meeting, don’t get sidetracked, stick to your agenda.
Stop talking about personal crap – save that for happy hour
Really? Do I need to hear every little detail about a person’s health, kid issues or their weekend? I have 3 kids and I care, but this is an efficiency issue.
If I have to choose more time to work on a great product and hang with your family or friends versus hearing about someone’s personal life, I’ll take the work time and more time out of the office – no offense.
When someone asks “How are you doing?” they are typically just being polite. They may even really care, but only want a high level response.
So try this response, “Good (insert a one word description), how are you?”
It’s that simple, conversation over.
Model this behavior, don’t fall into that trap and if everyone is on board and focuses to work (during their WORK day), then you may be able to have happy hours on the clock IF all the work is finished!
Cut meeting times in half
I still see “All Day Off-sites,” 3 hour planning meetings and basic weekly meetings set to 1 hour. Why not start with 30 minutes or a stand up.
If you then need more time, then schedule it or do it in smaller groups after the meeting. 30 minutes should be more than enough to get out a team communication or align on next steps.
Confining a brainstorm or planning meeting to 1 hour will actually put people under some pressure, add some excitement and get heart rates up.
To make this effective, send out some pre-brainstorm questions BEFORE the meeting. Have people starting thinking up to a week before the meeting and jotting down ideas.
Then, he / she can come prepared to collaborated instead of using that time to think – which for some people, is hard to do “off the cuff” so to speak.
Worry about yourself and doing your job and be direct when clarity is critical
You have the ability to stop the drama. It is easy to fall into non-agile traps when co-workers start dumping their issues on your.
Pass them off nicely to their managers or just put your head down and keep working.
They’ll move on. It is not your job to solve their issues.
Encourage managers to have a culture of transparency where people can be direct and thus not have to bother other people.
This also plays into meetings, emails and all communications where you have an objective, but you still feel like you need to sugar-coat and use words like “Thoughts?”, “What do you think?” when you are really giving a direct order.
You can be a leader and be firm with your ideas without looking like you are taking over. People will respect that.
Forecast and Block out time to Do the Work
So, now that you have shorter meetings, have digital notes and tasks and have a more focused day – you should now have a better handle on what you committed to and the dates people need your work by.
Stick to it. Every time someone doesn’t deliver their part on time, it rolls everyone’s day. More extra time is need to reevaluate and move dates.
Don’t EVER deliver something when you say you will.
Make sure you have a good handle on your production time and add some time incase the inevitable comes up – no need for hero’s. You will gain credibility here.
What bugs me more than someone not delivering is a person that foolishly committed to an unrealistic deadline. And if you misjudge (we’re all human and some very ambitious), but that’s Okay! :)
Deliver Phase I to keep the project moving… and
then communication, when the rest will come.
Done. I hope these help keep you on track and identify areas to improve on. Refer to my post about maximizing holidays – when people are out of the office, embrace this time to be efficient!