Friday, November 04, 2011

Innovation and Productivity: Addressing that Stack of Work on Your "Plate"

I found this old post that should have been posted here...

It's from 07/27/09

Just had a great discussion with Bernie Michalik, a Senior I.T. Architect.
We talked about Innovation and Productivity.

Bernie and I are both interested in innovation. We talked about how read blogs (using a feedreader) (or even reading twitter feeds) allows us to hear about new topics that we otherwise wouldn't have thought of, which also helps with "out of box" thinking.

I mentioned to Bernie that I had someone just a few weeks ago talking about how their work was more than they could get done. Bernie made some great points that come from the 7 Habits of effective People and Getting things done books. I've melded them here with my thoughts into some major points:

Don't get in a panacea of being bogged down in logging and analyzing tasks. Getting things done mentions that if something only takes 5 minutes, then do it right away rather than logging and tracking it. This is generally good advice, but sometimes I've found that I end up just doing 5 to 10 minute tasks and the important items are skipped. Don't get stuck in analysis paralysis of your tasks.

Instead, follow this general timeboxing process (adopted from Agile Development methodologies)
1. Log: Get a list of tasks
2. Decide: determine the length of the time box (an amount of time you will execute tasks before starting the next timebox). This can be 2 hours, a day, a week or whatever
3. Analyze: Prioritize the top tasks to fit them into the timebox.
4. Validate: Get agreement on the task list with someone in authority (your manager, client, yourself, your spouse, your family...)
5. Execute: Do the items on the task list (don't look over your shoulder to see the list of new tasks coming in)
6. Record: Document your results / lessons Learned
7. Repeat

Analyze - A few thoughts on this important step.

Bernie mentioned that, as per the "7 Habits," concentrate on the items that are important and urgent. Look for what is critical and essential. What would burn you if it didn't get done?

Bernie also gave me an acronym he learned several years ago that he still uses to this day for the "Analyze" step:

E : Eliminate: Remove items, delegate, say "no." Either way, get rid of items you can
S: Simplify : take the list that's left and try to reduce the steps needed for the tasks
S: Standardize: try to use common standards to make the work repeatable and more efficient. Work from a standard set of tool(s) and a standard approach
A: Automate: work towards automating the work
I: Integrate: Merge together items to reduce the work

Bernie made the point that we need to start at the top of the list and work down the steps. If we start with the integration step (which is often done when integrating two systems for example), then many times it would have been better to have first started with the "Eliminate" step to remove some items in thus reduce the amount of overall work.

Thanks Bernie, I hope this information will be of use to others!