When it comes to our jobs or our companies we have some tasks that we have to do and some tasks that we want to do. But those can be the same on any given day. How do you know? How do you understand someone else’s perspective at work? In this episode I’ll explore the things we do and the way we do them to understand a little better how we can use the Machinery of Business – the tools we have – to help us.
If you’d like to create your own continuum of daily tasks then you can use this template to give you an idea of how it works.
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work, business, meeting, improve, change, talk, responsibilities, point, responsible, line, software engineer, company, systems, scrum kanban, write, continuum, tools, interactions, quote, richard
Hello, this is Richard Brown. And this is automation for the nation. Does it matter what I call it? No, not really. Until now in this series, I've discussed a few things around processes, systems, businesses, and the language of projects and change. This week, I'd like to talk a little bit about the culture of business, how we go about our work and who is ultimately responsible for the work that we do every day. I've called this episode who is responsible, or the machine of business. When we look at our systems, and we look at our business, do we see a distinction between the things we have to do and the things that we need to do? For example, my background is in software engineering, building software for companies that will either sell it to other businesses or direct to customers, or they will use it to improve efficiency or cut costs in their own business. As a software engineer, one takes pride in coming up with solutions that save labour or improve the lives or efficiencies of those using our stuff. When fulfilling the role of the software engineer, it's important to keep yourself informed. While I was made sure I was educated, and up to date with the latest and greatest technologies and techniques. I also took an interest in new ways of working such as agile, Scrum Kanban. When they come along and change our preconceptions about how we do the work, perhaps we can use those in our mission. So sometimes there is a tension between doing the work on the product or the service and improving how we do the work. Occasionally, this can get out of balance, or we spend more time trying to improve ourselves or learn things than we do actually doing the work. Other times this can go the other way, we can spend too much time just doing the work and not enough time thinking about how we can improve things. If you didn't listen to other podcasts or you follow other people who talk about this from a business perspective, you may hear the phrases working in the business as opposed to working on the business or on your business. So how do we understand when enough is enough? What is our motivation for doing either of these things, working on the business or in the business, it's natural to want to divide our time between the things that we have to do and the things that we want to do. But it's not always obvious which things fall into one of these categories. Ask yourself a few questions about your work, and how it relates to what you do. Do you know what you're supposed to be doing on a daily basis? Do your colleagues know what you do? When did you last have a good meeting? Do you dread booking meetings? Do you dread trying to make people responsible for doing things for you? Do you wish you could be more effective in getting things accomplished? Would you like to spend more time learning about new things? Don't worry if these questions get you agitated, that was kind of the point, I just wanted to get you thinking ahead of the next part. And this is an exercise. So this little exercise is something that you can do to work out where your various work activities lie on the continuum of your work life. Firstly, take a blank sheet of paper and a pen or pencil and write down all of the things that you do, whether they be daily, weekly, monthly, or annual tasks, try and write down as many of the key things and responsibilities that you take care of. And on top of that, write down all the things that you do to improve yourself, including all of the things that you're required to do, and around your job. Don't limit the list of things that you enjoy doing. But all the other things that you must do. Now take another blank sheet of paper and draw a line in the middle of that paper from left to right. Take a look at the list you created. And on the right hand side of that line, write down your favourite thing that you do from that list. Now put a tick next to the item on your list. On the left hand side of that line, write down the thing you least like doing in your job from the list, place a tick next to that item. Now work through the whole list, tick off all of the items and place them on that continuum, between most favourite thing and least favourite thing. When you've done that you'll have a line of your things all written down. How can we interpret this line? Well, for one, the line chooses itself based on your preferences. This is your line and no one will have one quite like it. If you could get everyone in your place of work to do this and share their lines with each other. Do you think you could make your company a better place to work? Would you get more efficient as a company? Would you be happier as a company? Do you think that it would stay that way for very long. The point is that our priorities and our responsibilities change. You could do this exercise in three months, six months or longer, and the line might look very different. You might even do this exercise again next week and things might have changed. Your responsibilities and what you need to do might not have changed very much in that time. But the way you feel about them will have changed. Something you were dreading might now be behind you. Something you were looking forward to is now past.
The point is that time changes our responsibilities and time does not get reflected under contractual agreement with our employees or each other. How can we be more sure of what our responsibilities are today, we can do this with more effective communication to all of the tools that we have on offer our voices, our computers, and Christi now also our systems. If I look back at the jobs I've had over the years and work out my favourite parts of them, sometimes it would be a feeling I've had a better team, sometimes about an accomplishment or a contribution that I made personally. Sometimes it was how much I grew as a person during that role, sometimes about the risks, I took on all the risks I was encouraged to take to make a difference. Sometimes it was about how much money I earned. Sometimes it was about what clothes I was wearing, or the building I worked in. Our motivation comes in many forms. And it changes. We are the only ones who know on a daily basis where this motivation is coming from. And often, we can't clearly put our finger on it. It may be that we had a good breakfast, or a good run before breakfast, or a good running or on our train or in the car. Perhaps we had a terrible night's sleep and there was no milk in the fridge and we have a headache. The point is, we are all changeable. We cannot be expected to be at our best all the time. However, the machine of the business we work in should support our work, whether we are at our best or at our worst, the machinery of the business is responsible for us being at our best. And here's the thing, we are all responsible for that machinery. So the next time you're in a meeting, and it's not going well or you are having a conversation with someone and you want them to be responsible for something, use the machine of the business to help you. Here's a few examples of how you can make this work. If you send someone is not focused or upset, then give them space, talk about something else, or just leave them alone. Don't have a meeting just a touch base. That's terrible business speak anyway, that type of meeting is essentially wasting everyone's time. Unless that's the point of it. That's not the meeting. Just have a chat with them. If you want to update people on mass, send an email that is a medium that is respectful of people's time, and they can choose to follow along if they are interested. Use the tools that the technology brings. Use messenger or teams or slack or whatever messaging app to contact your teammates. Don't start messages with a high or good morning and expect a response. Keep to the point and state your message as in. Hi Richard. Sorry to bother you. But do you know when we can expect those minutes from the last meeting? That's the point of asynchronous communication. You can be polite, but you can still ask your question in one simple sentence. Keep the questions short and answerable. If you anticipate the answer might be complicated, then book a short online meeting with a clear agenda. For example, meeting minutes and follow up actions from last staff meeting. Agree and publish an agenda for every meeting. But try to get everyone to buy into the agenda before setting it up or ask for feedback, socialise, change, or come back tomorrow this in the future when we talk about running more effective projects. But socialising ideas around change is vital to making it work in your office or your business. Notice that with all of these interactions, there is a clear outcome. A short to the point question is easy to answer. The interactions are a smallest possible. This shows respect for people's time, which is another way of showing respect for people. Yes, this might take more effort on your part, but makes it so much simpler for the other person. And they will implicitly thank you for that by responding in everything that we've discussed today, we've been understanding what we're responsible for what we enjoy doing and what we don't enjoy doing. Additionally, when we start to see the company of people around us, and understand the way that they do things, we realise that things change according to whim and moods. We can't control everything. But we can use a mechanism, the Levers of Business and our systems to ensure that we keep momentum. In addition to keep you on track with our business objectives, we become more compassionate listeners and more aware of our co workers and their likes and dislikes and ways of working. Use the business as our proxy. Using the systems we have as our helpers to enable us not to put us into a box, I was talking about the curse of productivity the other day. And after thinking about it for a while I found a great quote from Steve Jobs on it. You cannot mandate productivity, you must provide the tools to let people become their best. I believe that productivity is a curse of our time. It's also pretty much impossible to measure or define with any accuracy at a micro or company level. All of our talk of it is wasteful. It's also disrespectful. Another good quote from Mr. Jobs. Technology is nothing. What's important is that you have a faith in people that they're basically good and smart. And if you give them the tools, they'll do wonderful things with them. So remember, you're responsible for what you're responsible for. But then so is everyone else. Be good to each other. This is Richard Bown, wishing you good bye, and good luck. Until next time
in the shownotes I'll also link to the quotes that I found. And I'll also share my timeline of responsibility just to give you an idea of how things look in my life and what I like doing and what I don't like doing maybe that'll give you some inspiration there's also some free resources which are linked to Good luck and see you next time