Wherever your infrastructure doesn't actually work FOR you, it actively works AGAINST you; slowing down results, frustrating good people, and hiding problems.
I work with teams to create, clean up or refine the formal systems and processes and structures they use to organize, communicate, track, manage and complete work. The work falls into 4 broad categories.
- Planning & Strategy
- Track & Manage Work
- How Teams Are Organized & Run
- Reporting & Information Systems (Basic)
These are the basics, fundamental kinds of work that have to work well for your people to perform at high levels. Effective infrastructure creates a level of stability and predictability. It eliminates a lot of frustration and waste. It makes it easier for your people to get their work done.
Some organizations want and need a high level of detail. Some work much better with a few simple systems for handling their most important work. Your systems and processes should be tailored to your culture, the way you really work and the kind of environment you want to create.
(For a more detailed discussion click here for a free download of Bigger is Different: Solving the Infrastructure Problem You Didn't Know You Had. Section 2 includes a detailed framework for evaluating your own infrastructure and prioritizing improvements.)
PLANNING & STRATEGY
If you do not have a clear set of organizational priorities and a plan for getting them done, people will sometimes work in different directions and important projects may not get done at all.
I use a strategic planning method called CRITICAL FACTORS PLANNING. It gives organizations a process for choosing their priorities and putting a reasonable plan in place for the work that needs to be done. More than that, the method includes a simple tool and process to track progress. It is not unusual for clients using this method to complete important projects, in under 12 months, that they have been trying to get to for many years and sometimes even decades.
The process and tools are useful to not only complete their Critical Factors projects but to also inject new skills, strategies and habits for effective planning and future projects.
TRACK & MANAGE WORK
One of the simplest shortcuts to improve both efficiency and morale is by formalizing how you track and manage work. When updates and reporting are mostly verbal (checking in) and notes are kept in separate systems (usually individual notebooks) it is time consuming and difficult to keep track of deadlines and progress. And an inconsistent, informal system makes it very hard to hold people accountable or even support their efforts.
Do you know what your people are doing? Where they stand on major projects? Can you find out without actually talking to them?
I believe in simple tools that convey critical data and support work getting done without becoming a job in and of themselves. When you have effective ways to track & manage work, meetings go faster, results are better, progress becomes more consistent and teams can have honest conversations about capacity and priorities all of which help make it easier to produce better results.
HOW TEAMS ARE ORGANIZED & RUN
People are not born knowing the best ways to work together. Most will default to whatever they've seen in the past, even when it doesn't work and makes them miserable. Boring/unproductive/endless meetings or company social hours, managers you see too little or too much, trying to serve two or three or more bosses, conflicting or unclear priorities, are common problems that indicate you are missing key infrastructure for organizing and managing teams.
The way teams are organized and run has a huge impact on overall productivity. Being strategic about the resources they need and use, teaching people good rules for better meetings, and designing communication (when to meet, about what and how often) gets you better decisions and better results while protecting the time of key people and preventing a great deal of momentum killing frustration.
REPORTING & INFORMATION SYSTEMS (Basic)
Many leaders are effectively flying blind in important areas of their business. When you do not have regular access to data that you need you don't actually know what is and isn't happening. You lose the chance to spot patterns, the problems and opportunities in the numbers. You end up making decisions based on assumptions and guesses vs. facts.
You do not have to drown your people in paperwork in order to ensure you have the critical information you need. Well designed systems are simple, focus on critical data, and are a match for your goals, budget and culture. Simple reports give you a way to see more, see farther and see more deeply so you can educate your gut and fully leverage your experience and expertise in your industry and organization.
You can't manage what you can't see and whatever you're not actively managing is going to get off track sooner or later. Knowing your critical numbers won't protect you from every problem, but not knowing them leaves you open to great risk.
Have some questions?
Like talking to a real person? You can call me directly at 720-273-3286. (I still answer my own phone.)
Prefer NOT to talk to a real person, at least not right away? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also learn more about how a project starts here on THE PROCESS page.