The employee sat in silence as their boss went on about another round of changes to the project she was working on. There was nothing to say really. It would only extend the meeting and it wouldn’t change the outcome.
No matter what, more time would be spent on this project, the prior work would be discarded, and frustration is inevitable. The main thing going through the employees mind:
The owner pauses when he sees the disengaged look in the employees eyes. His thoughts are polar opposite. I am now going through the umpteenth round of changes and she isn’t even listening. No wonder the projects are over budget and taking forever.
She isn’t even taking notes.
Maybe if she would pay attention the owner wouldn’t have to keep re-directing. The main thing going through the owner’s mind:
Some version of this occurs at some level in probably every organization. The scenario could vary. It could be:
The employee is so gung ho, he rushes off and starts working on things without getting all of the information he needed or clarifying any questions. This isn’t an engagement problem…yet.
The owner hasn’t taken the time to figure out what she wants. She shoots off assignments that are only half-baked. Why is she surprised when she gets back an insufficient deliverable?
The scenarios are endless, yet the problem is the same:
How To Reduce The Waste
In thinking this through, as I have been on both sides of this issue, I think it requires a simple process and some questions that the owner (delegator) must first answer.
Is the project/assignment worthwhile? Does it align with the goals of the company, the goals of the customer, etc?
This is an essential question because anything worthwhile is worth spending one of our most valuable resources on….our time.
And as the examples above illustrate, if you have time to do it over and over, you have time to do it right the first time.
Doing it right takes more upfront time.
So, you have now determined the project is worth your company’s time. To make the time used optimally effective, try this process:
1. Clear Objectives – The What
Block out time, at least a few minutes, to write down what you are trying to accomplish with this specific project. Just describing what you want done without the why, doesn’t necessarily reduce the time waste. Especially if you have talented, responsible managers. They can’t help but try to enhance or maximize the quality of the work. But if they are guessing at the objective you are trying to accomplish, they may head responsibly in the wrong direction. Time is still wasted. You must give the big picture.
This will also help you know exactly what you want accomplished. It is really frustrating to employees if an owner (delegator) waits until they get round one of the deliverable, then decides to think about the objective.
You are not just doing this for the employee. This is mandatory if you want to hit the objective consistently. You may get lucky on occasion, but mostly, without the objective, you are the cause of the wasted time.
This may be you or the person you delegate too. Or maybe you do it together. This is so overstated, but completely under-executed. We don’t want Ready, Fire, Aim. Most excellent execution comes from having a good plan.
If you take the time to plan out the assignment/project, you will:
- Know what needs to be done and be able to better estimate the time required and achieve the deadlines.
- You will identify questions that have not been answered. This is SO important. We can’t always get 100% of the information we need in advance, but by creating a plan we will certainly surface questions that could determine the trajectory of the project and pre-empt changes down the line. (This means less time wasted.)
- Quality will be better. Whomever is executing can now focus on quality of work because they are not distracted with what needs to be done, lack of clarity, or concern about the impending re-work.
This time investment in preparation of the work will help eliminate wasted time later.
This is an obvious step, but I will point out that execution will be smoother. The employee can follow the plan. By knowing the objective and having the plan, even if he has questions, it is more likely that he can answer them himself be reviewing the pre-work. This will result in fewer delays waiting on you to have time to discuss again.
4. Pre-planned Follow-up
It is always better to check on a project before it is complete to make sure it is heading in the right direction. These check points may be fewer over time once your process is perfected, however, while you are establishing this procedure, it is best to have interim check points.
What If The Time Wasted Is Not My Fault
You may be thinking that this process takes the responsibility off of the employee. You may feel like they need to ask the questions and get the information that they need. You may wonder where does the accountability come in.
I know I feel this way at times.
However, this actually aids the accountability. This process is just eliminating the possibility that you may have some fault in the process. If you think about it, haven’t you been guilty of:
- not really thinking about the objective of a project/assignment yourself.
- not writing anything down and a week later, you can’t remember the details either.
- not following up until something is due, and then when it is wrong, taking it back and fixing it yourself.
- just flat out changing your mind, but not owning it.
I know I have.
But what if you go through this process, and there is still re-work, missed deadlines, and ….
Data To Analyze
Now you have an objective and a plan to review the deliverable against and see what went wrong. You can hold everyone involved in the project accountable.
And with accountability, we will decrease missed objectives.
With a plan, we will improve quality.
With success, we will diminish frustration.
And with a proven process, we will eliminate…