Friday, May 29, 2009

Clarity Leads to Productivity

"Business is doing a great job at changing to meet marketplace, customer and shareholder needs. And it is lousy at making work elegant -- creating clarity of choice, then providing the tools and information people need to work smarter."

-- Bill Jensen, "Simplicity: The New Competitive Advantage"

In my post Strategy Plain and Simple, I stated "People inherently know what to do (i.e., develop their own task lists) if they know what the parameters are for decision making based on the organization's strategic focus."

However, being able to develop their own task lists in line with the strategic focus requires that people have the resources they need to complete the tasks. Information management is a source of unnecessary complexity in organizations according to the book Simplicity: The New Competitive Advantage by Bill Jensen. Jensen describes simplicity as an information revolution whose mission is to make the complex clear.

How often have you or your staff done something "the hard way" because your couldn't find the information, training or resources you needed to do it most efficiently? Ironically, we have hundreds of technological tools available to make information readily available and targeted to specific users, often free or inexpensive.

The barrier is not technological availability or cost; rather, it is perspective. Specifically, we don't view our staff as end-users the same way we do our customers. Updating our website is a never-ending activity, and the focus usually is how to make navigating easier for the end-user. Yet, we don't put the same focus on how to help staff navigate their jobs easier, to easily find the targeted information they need SPECIFIC to their job.

How often have you taken a joyride on the information superhighway and hours later realized: I just spent half my day on the internet and have nothing to show for it? At times even when I'm trying to maintain discipline and focus on a job task, I take an information sideroad just because it's there -- the "Ooh, shiny. . . " factor.

The challenge with the sheer volume of information now available is determining what is meaningful and essential. With that in mind, organizations need to pre-route staff trips for information so that each person takes the specific route that is the quickest for them to get from point "A" to point "B." Think end-user experience.

A simple three-column spreadsheet can be the beginning of a simple, effective information management system. With "staff position" heading the first column, two questions head the next two columns:

1. What do I need?
2. Where can I find it?

Then start the list, which can be expanded and contracted as more items come up or as job needs change.

For a free, low-tech, easy approach, save the spreadsheet in Google Docs and make it available online for all staff to share and update. The document can be used to create a searchable database or simply use the search function in the spreadsheet itself.