If you are like me, you struggle to manage your time. So many demands, so little time. Prioritization helps, but it is not quite enough. Not everything should be done. Many things should be delegated.
Imagine if every time someone on your team attempted to "delegate up," they stopped and ran that issue through the "four quadrants" as outlined below:
(Image from http://sidsavara.com)
If something is really "on fire," it needs to be addressed right away. This might look like an urgent physical condition (a flood or fire), a dire, real client emergency, etc. These are considered Important and Urgent, or Quadrant 1. We have to tend to those issues right away.
Issues which are Not Important are simply not important! Some may be ignored altogether (e.g. calling back the cold caller or reviewing your NCAA bracket). Sometimes they need to be done, but not at the expense of something that is actually Important. Quadrants 3 and 4 need to be judiciously managed, and a lot of that comes from personal maturity. Simplify, reduce, and eliminate what you can, and delegate what remains. On virtually every team there are junior members whose knowledge and skill will benefit from the opportunity to tackle something new. Give them a chance. Delegate as many of your tasks to them as possible, but be careful to not abdicate your responsibility in the process.
The Important but Not Urgent fall into the famous "Quadrant 2," which are the items you should keep for yourself. These are the things that actually move your business forward! Here are some examples:
- Strategic planning
- Employee reviews
- 1 on 1 employee sessions
- Preventative maintenance on your equipment
- Professional development for your team
- Market research
Putting It into Practice
When something comes up in the day-to-day operation of your business, you quickly run it through this "Quadrant Filter." If it falls into Quadrants 3 or 4, either discard it right away or simply set it aside to be addressed at a scheduled time. If it can be delegated to an appropriate-level staff person or process, do so!
If it is a Quadrant 1 issue, address it yourself or hand it off to a teammate through a proven process (i.e. a ticketing system, a "red sheet" handed to someone, the fire alarm, etc.). Don't just throw it over the fence and consider it "not my department." Get confirmation on the hand-off.
Now, if it is a Quadrant 2 issue, go into encouragework.com, click on "My Team," select the "Issues" tab, and create a new Issue. Issues are items which are managed for discussion at a later time. You know--those items that come to your desk with some clear importance but really do not need to be addressed right now. Or you simply do not have the information necessary to make an informed decision right now. The next time your team gathers for your regular meeting, you can review any open Issues in order by their potential value to your team.
If you are a Traction/EOS team, you call this your weekly Level 10 meeting where you will exercise the IDS (Issue, Discuss, Solve) process. If you are having your weekly "Pulse" as a Scaling Up team, this is where you will tackle these issues.
You may find it necessary to schedule a meeting to review some outstanding issues, but your regular Level 10 or Pulse meetings should be adequate to get a handle on these issues and put them on a course for resolution.
If an item is really not that important after all, then simply close it. Very often there are ToDos which arise from the discussion of an issue. Some ToDos are set to resolve the issue, while sometimes a ToDo will be required to gather some more pertinent data to help the team drive towards a final solution.
Avoiding the Interrupt System
The good news here is that you have properly recorded the Issue and have not interrupted the flow of work for something that can wait. If you would have interrupted yourself and/or your teammates, you all lose precious momentum on your current task and you don't get your team's best, focused talent and thinking to adequately address the issue. If you're lucky, you avoid making a bad decision, but rarely do you get the best decision when you use the "Interrupt System"!
An optional feature in encouragework is the ability to prioritize your Issues. If you don't see anything related to "Value," ask your team admin to enable this feature under the Group settings page.
We define the "Value" of an issue as the result of a simple math equation:
Value = Benefit divided by Cost.
Let's look at a couple of examples:
Let's say an issue has been recorded that has a significant impact on your net margin for your most popular service offering. If you can solve this problem, the benefit to the team is very high as it impacts the majority of your customer contracts and even a small net improvement across each of these contracts translates to non-trivial bottom-line impact.
Now, let's say that the cost to make the necessary change to this situation is a simple policy change that can be implemented with a communication to your customer support team and an update to your website's FAQ page. This solution looks to have a very low cost.
High Benefit / Low Cost = High Value.
This is an issue that your team will want to tackle as soon as possible! It is not urgent, but it is very important, and you have a reasonable assurance that solving this issue will bring great value to your team.
You have identified a percentage of your customers who really want a new feature in your product. The number of clients asking for the feature is relatively small, the product they have has been at "end of life" for two years, and they are on your lowest-margin support plan. Solving this issue is likely of low benefit to you.
Now, in order to address this issue, you will need to divert your best engineer away from work on an upcoming product for two weeks. This sounds like a high cost solution.
Low Benefit / High Cost = Low Value.
You may want to close out this issue without resolving it beyond an appropriate response to your client. It may be better business to simply offer these clients an incentive to upgrade to a newer product.
The Value in Value
Once your issues are scored with a "Value," it becomes easy to priortize your work and help your team make better use of its limited time.
For more thoughts on scoring benefit and cost, have a look at the post on Scrum and Fibonacci.