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Here we are in September, with summer’s lazy days in the rear view mirror. Seems like everyone came back with a vengeance from Labor Day Weekend this year. The last two weeks have been a total blur for me, with two major events and a roadtrip on top of numerous client meetings and after-work functions.
When things get nuts, you need to be organized and have a plan. (It’s similar to how I recommend we deal with crisis, which I addressed in a previous post).
At its simplest, organization reduces wasted energy doing mundane tasks. For example, keeping your car keys in a dish by the front door prevents you from going on a 15 minute hunt every time you leave the house. (Check out this hysterical song adaptation!)
At the other end of the spectrum, organization provides a clear set of instructions to address likely or recurring scenarios. Organization in this regard increases efficiency and enhances output.
In short, organization frees our minds for the important tasks of creativity and critical thinking.
So how do we get – and stay – organized? Here are a couple of thoughts:
1. You need a Leader. Yes, one that comes with a capital “L.” This is the person who shapes the process, defines the team and drives the action. The Leader also is the only person with the authority to change the plan, unless he/she delegates that authority (though I think that’s a massively bad idea).
2. You need a clear set of goals. Financial Talk Show Host Dave Ramsey calls this “the why,” and explains it this way: if people understand the reason they are doing something, they are far more likely to succeed because they are personally invested. Executing a plan with no “why” involved makes it an empty action that almost always fails.
3. You need a team that can do the job. Just like the answer to the question, “How do you eat an elephant?”, you need enough people on your team to do lots of little jobs so the entire task gets done more efficiently and better (note I didn’t say faster; speed is nearly always a killer in our field). As the Leader, you have to instill a sense of importance in each team player’s responsibility. Let’s face it, some tasks are more exciting or fun than others. But every player’s task is important, or you wouldn’t be assigning it. So choose your team wisely and fire them up by getting them personally involved.
4. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. I’m an old radio guy, and still measure my workday in 30 to 60 second increments. The thought of waiting an hour (or a day!) for an answer is simply incomprehensible to me. Since the clock it always ticking, so you need to be moving the project forward at all times. If you start something on Monday and it’s not done by Friday, you’ve wasted your week.
5. The payoff. When you reach your goal, you need to let people know. It’s not always obvious – which is why we generate reports and supply data; they’re little trophies that say “the game’s over, here’s what the final score was.” The Payoff needs to be part of your organizational plan, not an afterthought. You need a regular template for your reporting that is clean, clear and concise. An executive doesn’t want to drill down through 50 pages of clips. They want a one page memo with a couple of top line takeaways as to how he did.
There are probably dozens of additions and subsets to the above list, and I’d love for you to share your ideas on how you stay organized.