Get your hands dirty

Over the past week, my team has been gracious enough to take the time and walk me through their day-to-day processes.

Yes, I am a process nerd. I took all their information and converted it into a fairly convoluted swim-lane process map.

As a leader, is that necessary? Shouldn’t the team be building this for your review?

Well, I consider this type of exercise part of my investment into the team. By outlining my understanding of how things work in a visual manner, it provides the opportunity to talk about the process with the team, allows us to identify pain points, and becomes a tool for working with partners to facilitate change in areas that need attention.

On top of all those reasons, working with a team in a deep manner builds culture and trust. By taking the time to really understand the in’s and out’s of your team members activities, it demonstrates your commitment to the team.

This may be a more ‘hands-on’ approach than some managers want to manage, but for me, it’s a must.

Touch it Once

One of the most influential leaders at Caterpillar introduced me to the “Touch it Once” productivity concept. That was at least 15 years back.

A quick google search shows that “Touch it Once” is not a unique concept, but I can attest that it can be life-changing when you start to use this method in your daily work.

The idea is that you don’t put things to the side to address later. Once you open an email, you do not start anything else until that message is read and you take some form of action.

For me, it may be simply the action of Archiving each email I read. However, when a response or action is needed, I make it a point to not move on to anything else until I’m able to move the item along to it’s next stage.

Of course, there will be occasional distractions that don’t allow you to finish taking the action at that minute, but the key is, don’t jump to another task or email until you finish addressing that open item.

The “Touch it Once” method is so valuable because it helps limit the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Before I implemented this method into my working style, I would attempt to read all emails and then prioritize what needed to be done. All the items piled up. If things got in the way, the pile just got larger and larger. The awareness of all those items and half-thoughts on what should be done for each can exhaust a person.

The “Touch it Once” method may be a mind-game since the number of emails may pile up, but until you read the message, it is not filling your mental space.

A benefit of today’s technology is that if something critical and time sensitive is happening, there are so many other ways for people to reach you immediately. So, there has never been a better time to use the “Touch it Once” method.

There is no question in my mind that using the “Touch it Once” method is one of the best personal productivity methods I’ve every implemented. I’ve been using it for at least 10 years. I’d recommend you give it a shot.

Collaboration

Getting things done in a big company is an art. Partnership is critical as very little happens in a silo, and if it does, it is commonly not so good for the company.

Siloed activities typically stem from a lack of desire to collaborate. This is driven by the fact that working with others can be more tedious and time consuming then executing something independently. Acting independently requires little need to build shared perspective or consensus thus you can act faster.

However, from the broader point of view of the business, siloed work is commonly found to be costly and only meeting the business needs and value of a single group.

In large companies, size is an advantage. Bringing multiple groups together with common needs provides a cost effective method to create greater value for multiple groups.

Sure, it’s hard to bring everyone together and establish solutions that meet everyone’s needs, but with the right techniques and approach, it can be done.

Everyone can share in the value story and be apart of a common vision and culture.

PS: I’d highly recommend the following article that digs into the effect of Silos in organizations: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3813367/

Mental Preparedness

Having everything ‘figured out’ is not immediate. It can take time.

The process of soaking in information and understanding the back / side stories is something that should not be rushed.

Creating a mental map of 3 key areas is critical for starters…

  1. What is being done?
  2. What are the immediate opportunities?
  3. What are the long-term objectives?

As this begins to form mentally, the process of locking these details down into documented form will be geared towards summarizing what you know, avoiding taking a stab in the dark and hoping you hit the target.

The intention is to get to the point where formal goals can be established. But, before moving too fast, make sure that you take the time to mentally hover.

If you jump in too fast and start to ‘put things on paper’, you will find too many areas where you have to backpedal or adjust. That is what happens when you don’t take the right amount of time to process and build a solid stance of what is happening and what needs to be done.

Deliver Fast or Deliver Right

Some choose to lead and get things done by applying high amounts of pressure and self imposed deadlines.

It works. However, quality typically lacks and problems tend to appear later.

Instead, focus on working with the teams to build time boxes that ensure full discovery and requirements definition.

No one wants a somewhat functional solution. We all want a solid well functioning solution.

While high pressure stress inducing deadlines may get people moving, it just makes more messes to cleanup at a later point.

Take your time. Do it right.

Translation of ALL content

Want a way to turn me off as a consumer? Send me to your website’s product information for my country / region and show information in untranslated or mixed translated form.

From an English speaking perspective, it rarely happens, but occasionally you may experience some Japanese or German content on products based from those countries. It’s easy enough to understand since all the engineering and information initially generates from those locations.

I’m not sure if this is an American ‘thing’ or what, but on a much more regular basis, English will be shown in Non-English locations in a mixed or completely untranslated form.

Just trying to put your feet in the shoes of a local non-English customer… Do you think this is a positive experience? I don’t think so. The same annoyed feeling I have when experience Japanese or German on an English page is what customers are bound to happen in reverse.

One of my missions is to ensure 100% language management for product content.

Yes, it costs money. Sometimes it does not feel ‘worth-it’ to spend the money in all cases. However, the negative brand and purchasing impact can be measured. (Yes, it’s been researched).

You and I don’t want to be used as an example in those metrics.

Buying off-the-shelf or Building from scratch?

As an enterprise technology owner, you are commonly faced with the strategic question of… should we build a solution from scratch or does it make sense to just buy a pre-built solution from a 3rd party.

Asking yourself and your team a set of healthy introspective questions is important.

  • Is it cost effective to consider building vs. buying a solution?
  • Have we considered long-term operational & maintenance expenses?
  • Would building this solution fit as a core competency in our team or would this be considered ‘something different’?
  • Is there valuable IP in off-the-shelf software that may be difficult to replicate?

A peer of mine once described a group that decided to spin-up a solution as a team that wanted to ‘play developer’.

Spinning up a solution is an investment. Be cautious about taking this leap. If you are willing and able to make the investment, dedicate the resources, care & feed the solution on an ongoing basis… Great!!!

There is a reason off-the-shelf software typically comes from a dedicated company… because it takes a lot of effort to focus and create a great product. If you cannot make that level of commitment, chances are that the solution your team creates will be old & antiquated in 3-5 years and it will be a mess that somebody has to cleanup.

If you are on the fence, lean more towards buying off-the-shelf.

Transitions

It’s been announced that I will be moving into a new role on September 1, 2021. Still in the same organization, tied to some of the same applications, but residing in a new division and taking on more of the strategic planning responsibilities. The change requires that my current responsibilities are broken apart and spread in a 3 way-ish split. It’s complicated.

Going through this process requires time to be carved out of the schedule. There are many details that have been woven into working level spreadsheets in the manner that made sense as my group organically grew.

The process of pulling apart the tentacles and helping others understand ‘what is what’ is fairly tedious. Everything has a back-story.

This provides interesting perspective on a transition. Hopefully, there will be lessons learned on how to managed details in a way that can be even better organized and ready for the next time someone else needs to jump in and take the reigns.

Associating value to Content

Content management often receives a pass from business leaders when it comes to articulating ‘value to the business’.

It can be considered a no-brainer… Content must be managed as a fundamental element of the marketing & sales processes. Focus on the tools and processes, but don’t worry about associating value. [end sarcastic tone]

One of the concepts I like in the content management space is the idea of treating each piece of content as a financial asset. Each content has a cost of creation, live maintenance, long-term management for reuse, and eventual retirement.

The value equation evaluates the ‘cost of life’ for the content and the relationship to the business value attribution.

Associating a strong analytics process to understand interaction behavior with content and the linkages to leads / sales makes this possible.

Across many digital properties, brands commonly only have strong performance on 40% of their content. This is not a good track record and rarely gets scrutinized.

By tracking the value equation, you can better hone and focus efforts to ensure wasted content creation is avoided.

Provide the tools and embed the formulas for all team members to have these details at their fingertips. Make value association a part of each content creator’s annual goals. Apply pressure to let everyone know that the value is being monitored.

Applying these types of models will increase the quality of your online presence for customers and provide an internal framework for avoiding waste.

Opportunities Abound

A fresh start in a new role is always exciting. It is a chance to reset and consider new ideas and methods.

New responsibilities present scenarios where disconnected concepts can be brought together and long standing issues can be ironed out.

Working through the sticky details of transitioning existing responsibilities while considering how to work in the new position has to be balanced.

It is best to take a methodical approach. Carve out time to establish an organized transition. Start to craft the framework for the new role.

The transition time may be a little wild, but keeping in mind all the opportunities that can be tackled in the future is invigorating.