Problems Seen in Inadequate Filing Systems

Mary shares the top five root causes for problems she has seen relating to inadequate filing systems within organizations.


Kill the Waste Quadrant to Improve Efficiency

The time management matrix isn’t new. Stephen Covey introduced it in the 1980s. And I bet that you understand time management skills. So why then is it so difficult to implement these skills? I believe it is because people become overwhelmed by their important and urgent tasks, so they resort to tasks of least resistance – those taks that are not important and not urgent – the “waste” tasks.

Let’s have a look at the time management matrix to better understand the “waste” quadrant:

Let’s face it, if you’re spending too much time in quadrant 4 (the “waste” quadrant), you can really eat up a lot of your time and create backlog at work, leading to stress and overwhelm. The best way to stop wasting time on tasks that are neither important or urgent is to spend ten minutes each and every day planning your activities for the next day. Ten minutes. That’s all it takes.

Spend the majority of your days working on activities that lead to accomplishing your goals (you do have goals, don’t you?). The way you do this is by focusing on quadrant 2 tasks (important, but not urgent). Sure, you’ll say that’s easier said than done. But it really is easy to accomplish. Here’s what a day working in quadrant 2 might look like.

  • Upon rising in the morning – Exercise
  • Shower/hygiene
  • Breakfast
  • Work – tackle the first things on your plan and work through your priority items (remember that you spent 10 minutes yesterday planning your work today)
  • Lunch – take lunch with colleagues or friends (skipping lunch to date your computer is non-productive and can lead to a stressful and overwhelming afternoon)
  • After lunch – continue with your work plan
  • End of day – spend 10 minutes on your plan for the next day
  • Go home, spend time with your family, and do things that you enjoy
  • Go to sleep at the same time each day so you are refreshed and energized to tackle tomorrow
  • Repeat

If you can practice this routine for three months, you’ll have built a habit that will help you accomplish your goals, live a relatively stress-free life, and be happier as a result. Now that’s something not to waste.

How I Help Clients Improve Their Business

In this podcast, Mary explains how she helps clients to identify the root cause of their problems before  creating an action plan for the problems they are encountering.

Efficiency Overload

Is there such a thing as too much efficiency? The short answer is “yes,” but let me explain.

The goal of efficiency is to cut out waste and try to do more with less; the end result being that the organization and the individuals in it are more effective (doing the right things – “quality”) by being more efficient (doing things right – “productivity”). In order to achieve this goal, balancing efficiency with available organizational resources is necessary to ensure that the correct amount of efficiency is implemented. It’s really about getting the right balance.

If an organization does not have the precise balance of efficiency in its administrative and operational systems and processes, the resulting ineffectiveness may be worse than if efficiency measures weren’t implemented in the first place. For instance, asking employees to be efficient by measuring everything they do can cause operational paralysis. Not everything can (or should) be reduced to numbers (e.g., how many emails did you answer today? is your inbox at zero by the end of each day?). Instead, quality needs to be built into each task so that efficiency is enabled through the resulting effectiveness. Instead of how many emails did you answer today, the question may be “How many emails did you answer today that needed to be answered today?”

Organizations and employees may disagree on whether there can ever be too much efficiency. The fact is that organizations need to continue to increase efficiencies in order to improve their competitiveness in the marketplace (or in the case of non-profit or government organizations, to improve their service levels). Sometimes this means layoffs and no raises – something that is not favourable to employees. Without competitive advantage, however, organizations disappear and in the process, all (not just some) of their employees lose their jobs. This is why it is important that the right balance of efficiency and effectiveness be implemented in all administrative and operational tasks.

While efficiency may be easy to implement in an industrial or mechanical operation, effectiveness is more important than efficiency for knowledge workers. Each individual needs to become as efficient as possible using good time and process management principles. Applying efficiency techniques to tasks such as managing one’s inbox, email, telephone calls, interruptions, etc., in a way that produces appropriate and quality results will enable knowledge workers to become more efficient and effective.

Implementing efficiency measures from the bottom up will ensure that each individual applies the appropriate balance for the type of work they are doing. This approach may help reduce the organization’s zeal to implement “mass” efficiency measures that may not be appropriate to every employee.

Putting People Back into the Quality Process

When we focus on business improvement, the easy part is fixing holes in systems and processes to gain quality and efficiency. But the key to making those fixes stick is the people. Enter: positive psychology.

Positive psychology is a psychological theory that looks at the positive side of human behaviour. Where psychopathology categorizes undesirable behaviour, positive psychology builds on character strengths to help optimize organizational productivity.  Positive psychology is especially well suited for use within culturally diverse workforces. Here’s how it works in an organizational setting.

  1. Goals – when a problem is identified, instead of blaming workers for poor performance, invite the workers to embrace the opportunity to participate in creating a new set of objectives and goals to solve the problem. In doing so, the workers improve their skills. For example, instead of pointing out that the workers’ “inefficiencies and lack of productivity are inhibiting workflow,” the leader says, “Let’s make records management a priority and skill for improvement.”
  2. Feedback – once the problem is identified and the worker is invited to participate in problem solving, the leader needs to provide specific and immediate feedback about the problem. Following from our example above, “inefficiencies in filing methodology are costing the organization $1 million in lost productivity annually” offers a measurable and definable goal for workers using positive psychology. Providing a measure in these terms ensures that workers really hear the message (criticism for poor work, on the other hand, may breed hostility and  more inefficiencies).
  3. Challenge – now that the workers understand why it is important to fix the problem (e.g., loss of $1 million due to inefficiencies), challenge the workers to discover the root cause of the problem. For this step, leaders need to take care to ensure that the strengths and talents of the workers invited to identify the root cause be matched to the level of the challenge. If the challenge outmatches the workers’ skill, then a heightened level of anxiety can occur which is counterproductive to the task at hand.
  4. Coaching – when the root cause is identified, invite the workers to brainstorm and pilot a solution to the problem. The leader does this through coaching and mentoring the workers. Coaching and mentoring are goal-oriented and collaborative processes that encourage building on strengths to implement solutions. Building on strengths can help enhance performance. In our workflow inefficiencies example, the brainstorm solutions provided should focus on the workers’ primary character strengths to increase their self-esteem and participation in solution implementation.
  5. Rewards – in order to ensure that the solutions devised are consistently and reliably implemented, rewards are essential. Rewards should include rituals that the workers develop to help them reduce their anxiety over the new performance levels. For example, teaching the workers to use enthused and compelling self-statements ensures continuing good performance. So instead of negative thinking such as “I can’t do this,” the workers’ self-talk includes: “What a great opportunity for me … I can expand my new learning to other areas … there’s a promotion in my future.”

Using positive psychology to include workers in solving organizational problems can help leaders solve vital productivity issues, improve the organization’s existing skills, and ultimately improve the organization’s bottom line over time. In addition, leaders will realize a happier workforce as a result. And who doesn’t want a happy work environment?


Uber Organizing Using the 10-Minute Rule

Being organized and being efficient are inextricable. One feeds the other. If you’re not organized, then you’re not efficient. And if you think your disorganization is not a big deal, think again. Not only are you preventing yourself from being as efficient as possible, but you are also preventing your colleagues’ efficiency, since they have to wait on you to complete tasks where your input is important.

The truth is that there is no room for disorganization in any office. Being disorganized eats up time and this means money. On top of this, if your office is disorganized, it can cost your company its credibility. And if you’re a disorganized leader or CEO, then your company really has a problem. However, it’s never too late to develop good habits. Try the 10-Minute Rule to get uber organized. Here’s how it works.

At the end of each day, take 10 minutes to clear clutter from only 10 percent of your office. For simplicity sake, let’s say your office is about 100 square feet, then you tackle only 10 square feet at a time. In ten days, you’ve decluttered and made your work space efficient. To help you on your way, check out Getting Organized for more useful tips.