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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning is a time to open up the closets and garage and take accounting.  Put away the things from completed projects and new projects never begun.  Look at the half finished projects and determine if you want to make the effort to finish them.  Look at the future projects and see if they still have meaning.  Throw out things that have no meaning and discover things that spark new ambition.  It's time to put your life in order and focus your efforts for the future.

I've recently been ill and forced to take time off from the job.  Not something I find easy to do.  As I ease my way back into the office, I find myself somewhat overwhelmed with the missed deadlines and unfinished work awaiting me.  It has forced me to step back and evaluate everything.  It has forced me to do a Spring Cleaning of my time.

I began with my "daily duties" I imposed on myself.  I looked at the reports I create and review on a regular basis.  I evaluated all of the incomplete tasks still in my planner and finally the projects, many scheduled months prior.  What I discovered is that I'm working too hard, or maybe not working smart enough.  When stepping back and evaluating the true importance of many of these items I found I was waisting time.

My management style is exception based management, which I spoke of in a previous Blog.  I focus my efforts on a few under performing areas and as they improve replace them with new areas.  The problem is that many of the reports and daily duties I initiated in these focused areas was never stopped when my focus changed.  As each new focus emerged, I added tasks without removing old tasks.  Things that required daily attention before might only need monthly scrutiny now, but I never adjusted to the situation.  I have been piling task upon task that didn't reflect my current priorities.  With Spring Cleaning, out with the old and in with the new.  I feel better already.

Another realization is how everything is interrelated.  As we continue to move forward and improve, each improvement impacts the entire process, not just the specific area of focus.  Many projects and tasks that had importance at the time were now irrelevant due to other changes.  Fixing one thing often has a cascade effect and changes several things in their coarse. I found planned tasks and projects that were no longer necessary.  

Increased knowledge and capabilities also influenced my Spring Cleaning.  As we have developed our technology and I have better learned to utilize it, I have found more comprehensive and simpler ways of obtaining information and monitoring processes.  This has made me better at my job.  What I haven't done a good job with is alleviating some of the old methods as I develop new ones.  It's time to weed out the data and focus on the what gets the biggest bang for my buck.

Reviewing some tasks and projects simply left me confused.  I could see no benefit in if their potential results.  The reason for this is obvious. I was wrong in my original evaluation of the situation.  The purpose of the task or project was based on bad conclusions.  As time passed and more information gathered, the source of many opportunities became clearer and my original conclusions were wrong.  Time to accept that and not waist time on these.

I have always taught, preached and I thought practiced pushing things down.  Delegation is vital to the organization.  Delegation frees time to work on other priorities and prepares those being delegated to for taking on additional responsibility.  I discovered I am not as good at it as I thought.  Some things can't be delegated.  Whether based on specific skills, knowledge, access to information or availability of staff, some things must be done by ones self and can't be pushed down. I discovered many things I am currently doing should be pushed down.  At the time I took ownership of these responsibilities there may have not been someone qualified to accept them.  Some were the result of specific emphasis at the time that has changed.  The problems was that I did not constantly evaluate and continued doing the tasks after situations and resources changed.  Team members received additional training and moved into new positions that made them available to assume new roles.  I have began pushing things down, team members are exited about new opportunities (and will do a better job at them with their enthusiasm) and I now have additional time.

So as I have opened up the garage and the closets to do Spring Cleaning I have learned a great deal.  Things constantly change in a vital organization and require reevaluation. I am so committed to my Spring Cleaning I have asked my team to individually do the same thing.  They need to open there closets and garage and evaluate how they spend their time.  I have learned so much I plan to do Spring Cleaning twice a year from now on.  Maybe I will actually do one of them in the Spring.

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