Advice | 4th February 2019

Too busy to change?

Too busy to Change?

The picture above is an internet favourite. It’s often used as a metaphor for Lean, Agile or Systems Thinking. I tend to relate it to change management more generally, and in my line of work to capacity management and business transformation.

We ask so much of our team leaders and managers it’s no wonder they often feel overwhelmed. When the smiling consultant comes knocking offering “help” and a brighter vision of the future they can often receive a cold reception.  Even though they are being offered tools and ways of working that promise to make their lives easier staff regularly cite a lack of space and time to work on something new.

The list of things keeping their teams in a permanent state of high stress typically include –

  • Working long hours to achieve SLA
  • Remediation of quality issues
  • Complaint handling
  • Training new staff in a high turnover environment
  • Dealing with poor performers
  • Supporting wider organisational projects

The problem as we all know is – “Insanity is doing the same thing over than over and expecting different results”. If teams don’t change the way they work they are doomed to remain in the permanent state of overload.  They feel they are too busy to change but they never say they’re too busy to firefight!

The good news is the solution isn’t that complicated. Once you open yourself up to change and accept the help being offered, you can make great progress in a short space of time.

Step 1Generate the Data – Introduce simple tools to give you the data you need to see how your team is performing and where your effort is being expended. Without the data you are blind.

Step 2Take control and prioritise – to move from reactive to proactive management introduce a weekly planning routine. The plan will show you in advance what you need to achieve and how much resource you have available to do it. Now you know ahead of time what is possible, what success looks like, and you can prioritise resources accordingly.

Step 3Break the cycle – Because ‘we don’t learn from experience we learn from reflecting on experience’ you need to take some time each week to look back on the previous week. What was supposed to happen? What actually happened? Why was the actual different from the plan? And most importantly, what can we do differently next week to avoid the same issues again?

Finally, to really move away from reactive management you need to stop rewarding people for putting out fires in a short-term fashion, instead reward those that put policies and procedures in place to ensure you have fewer fires in the future.


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