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Our fourth post in the Telework Week 2012 series is a guest post from Mike Williams. Mike brings 22 years of diverse training, leadership, and organizational development, and his deep appreciation of the GTD® methodology to his new role as President and CEO of the David Allen Company. He has developed and motivated organizational talent in his work with both small public and private firms and large industry leaders.


As we enter Telework Week, productivity is likely top of mind for many of you. It’s been proven that workshifting can make you more productive, but in the ever-changing work environment, different work styles take some getting used to. We’ve tapped Mike Williams to provide his insights and some additional tips on productivity.


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Are you ready for the new world reality?

The world is shifting around us. Are the assumptions you made last year still valid? The morning news today talked about the price of gasoline rising to $5.00 per gallon. Where gas will be in another 3, 5, or 10 years? If you are an employee of a business, how will that impact the way you work? If you are a business leader, how will that impact your bottom line and your ability to attract and retain employees?

Add to this equation a world that is getting flatter with each passing day. Talented individuals, previously considered unavailable, are now all around us. This could be someone who lives in a remote part of the country, a stay-at-home parent or a person located anywhere in the world. has Anyone with an Internet connection has the potential to be your teammate, business partner or customer. Access to talented people worldwide has never been greater.

You know what that means? That “talented resource” that people want access to is you! You are the current and next-generation knowledge worker.

Are you ready to play a new game?

Let’s shift gears now and get down to some essentials about work in today’s environment:

  1. The “make it” and “move it” jobs are decreasing.
  2. The “make it up” and “make it happen” jobs are increasing.

If you agree with me here, then the key skill needed today is the ability to transform “stuff” (ideas, problems, opportunities) into “successful outcomes” (website built, product launched, person hired, business plan defined, telecommuting policy implemented, etc.). This is the work of knowledge workers – transforming “stuff” into reality.

As we think more about workshifting, we also need to think more about what we mean by the word “work.” More fundamentally, how does work get done?

Step 1 – Outcome thinking

Do you have a crystal clear picture of your outcome? Is it vivid in your mind? If yes, you have completed a very important step that people often skip. Here are some common questions to experiment with that may bring clarity to your world:

  • What is the successful outcome for this meeting?
  • What is the successful outcome for this project?
  • What is the successful outcome for this presentation?
  • What is the successful outcome for this event?

A previous colleague who worked with me at General Electric (GE) picked up on this approach by the way I ran my meetings; he started using these questions in his own meetings and it really changed their whole dynamic. It became clearer what the group wanted to accomplish and the up-front agreement on the successful outcome helped avoid problems down the line.

Step 2 – What is your next action?

What is the next physical visible action you need to take to make an incremental step toward that outcome? (For example, call Fred, schedule a teleconference meeting to brainstorm ideas with the team, etc.). If you step back and think about it, you get to your outcome by a accomplishing certain number of actions. The number of actions will vary by the size and scope of the project but you cannot escape the principle. You cannot “do” an outcome you can only do actions.

Step 3 – Who owns the next action?

Have you ever left a “great meeting” with lots of “great discussion?” Me, too. What was missing? You got it – owners for the actions to move this great thinking forward. A key best practice is to leave time at the end of every meeting (perhaps 20 minutes of time for a 60-minute meeting) to collect next actions and owners. This simple tip will save you time and emails after the meeting.

Are you ready to experiment?

Knowledge is great. Applying knowledge is even better. Try experimenting with the following questions this week:

  1. What is the successful outcome for this activity?
  2. What is the next physical visible action I need to take to move this forward (call, schedule, email, create a spreadsheet, etc.)?
  3. Carve out 20 minutes to clarify who owns the actions at the end of a meeting.

And for bonus points: end your meetings when you’ve reached the outcome for the meeting. There is really no need to fill up the meeting time just because it is allocated. I’ve ended one-hour meetings in 15 minutes.

I’d love to hear how these tips work for you.

Sending my best wishes to you as we collectively embrace and become conscious to the benefits that workshifting can bring to you, your employees, your customers and our world.

Photo credit: philsnyder

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  • Margaret Donahue

    I find the focus on outcomes very helpful. I often begin by identifying the “measures of success.” Identifying how you measure a successful outcome often helps to establish a game plan.

  • http://www.odysen.com/ Matt

    Yeah, nothing like having a purpose every once in a while, :)!

  • Kbcmdba

    Nice “intro to ROWE” for meetings :-)

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