Does it feel like we are working more than ever, yet getting things done still seems to take a long time? Technology has enabled us to do more with less, but are we more effective? The idea of working smarter not harder means we need to focus on how we work together and whether or not we are using our time effectively.
A recent McKinsey survey uncovered that eight in ten executives have either implemented or are planning to implement changes to their meeting structure. Many of the respondents said they spend too much time in interactions that don’t create value. According to the survey, there are three types of collaborative interactions:
- Decision Making: including complex or uncertain decisions (for example, investment decisions) and cross-cutting routine decisions (such as quarterly business reviews)
Decision-making collaborations can be easily misunderstood. Models like RACI can help to clearly articulate specific responsibilities for each person involved in the decision-making process.
While it is a best practice to involve everyone who will be affected by the decision early in the process, you must also be transparent about their roles. Trying to make everyone happy is a recipe for failure. If you aren’t clear about how the ultimate decision will be made, which should often sit with just one person, you risk having too many cooks in the kitchen and a solution that appeases the group instead of one that is best for the business.
- Creative Solutions and Coordination: including innovation sessions (for example, developing new products) and routine working sessions (such as daily check-ins)
Do you find that you often end up focusing on day-to-day problem solving or getting mired in analysis paralysis? These are two common challenges that arise in larger bureaucracies. Instead of innovative problem solving, people often look for ways to appear they are moving forward or they continue to look at an issue thinking a solution must be in there if they give it time. These types of behavior slow down response times.
Providing high-quality coaching and empowering employees is one way to eliminate these problems. By providing guidance and tools to enable them, leaders can practice coaching rather than managing. Instead of telling employees what to do, “provide guidance and guardrails and ensure accountability, while stepping back and allowing others to come up with solutions.”
Coaching is not a skill that you can develop overnight, it takes mentors, practice, and an organizational culture that values professional development. Creating coaches means looking at both hard and soft skills, determining what you are going to measure, and how you track those goals. It also requires a culture of psychological safety. Do people feel comfortable asking questions, raising alerts, or making mistakes? If not, the underlying culture may need to be addressed.
- Information Sharing: including one-way communication (video, for instance) and two-way communication (such as town halls with Q&As)
Are your methods for sharing information efficient? When you schedule a meeting, are you sure it is absolutely necessary? According to the article, “Live interactions can be useful for information sharing, particularly when there is an interpretive lens required to understand the information, when that information is particularly sensitive, or when leaders want to ensure there’s ample time to process it and ask questions. That said, most of us would say that most meetings are not particularly useful and often don’t accomplish their intended objective.”
For example, can a meeting with one-way communication be replaced with an email or vlog? When a meeting requires two-way communication, have you provided materials in advance to the attendees so the meeting can be a productive dialog? Some companies have implemented no-meeting days to encourage better alternatives to information sharing.
If you’re feeling like your people are working harder but not smarter or you want to assess your culture to build an empowered workforce, send us a note.