How To Simplify The Way We Work


After the tough winter season most of us have had this year, it’s understandable that many of us are eager for Springtime weather to finally take hold so we might once again enjoy a warm sun under blue skies.

Of course, it’s not just the return of warm weather that many of us associate with the arrival of Spring. There’s also that sense of renewal and rejuvenation that comes with this time of the year; of being more open to making changes that will spur on new opportunities for growth and success.

This mood makes for a great motivator, not only for us to tackle the chores of spring cleaning where we clear our homes of undesired clutter, but also as a driving force for us to find new ways to streamline and better manage the unending demands on our time, energy, and resources.

Indeed, one of the hallmarks of our digital age is the pursuit of simplification – where we use our smartphones and other technological devices to help us simplify both the way we work and how we get things done.

In fact, one of the findings in this year’s Global Human Capital Trends from Deloitte found that some organizations “are starting to treat “time capital” with the same seriousness as financial capital”; that how we use our time is becoming an increasingly critical and prized resource that has a tangible connection to our collective success and long-term growth.

In many ways, this finding is not surprising as being able to simplify issues or situations helps us feel like we have a better handle on things. Through simplification, we can gain a better vantage point to understand what’s going on and what we need to do going forward.

So in keeping with the themes of spring cleaning and simplifying the way we work, I’d like to share this straightforward framework that can help you ascertain how you can go about decluttering the way you and your employees work in today’s faster-paced and ever-changing work environment by asking yourself the following three questions.

1. What should we stop doing?
The best place to start decluttering the way we work and reconnect with why we do what we do is by first examining those processes, projects, and tasks that we should stop doing.

Now some might argue that it’s better to start with the next question of “what should we keep doing”, but we have to remember that the goal here is for us to identify those tasks or responsibilities we’ve assigned to our employees which serve more to compound how much work they have on their plates than helping to move our organization forward.

It’s why we see many organizations now adopting policies like no emails after 5PM or even outright banning the use of emails for work – it’s not because they don’t see the value in this communication tool. Rather, the idea behind this is to remove distracting tasks that tap into their employees’ limited time, energy, and focus, impeding their ability to do meaningful and productive work.

Now, that’s not to say that every organization should limit or ban email usage in their workplace. But it does illustrate the necessity for all leaders to recognize that there are established methods for how we used to work that are in need of reassessment and reduction so that our employees can better manage the complexities found in today’s work environment.

2. What should we keep doing?
So now that we’ve started this process by examining what measures or processes we should stop doing in our organization, this next step becomes easier for us to assess and review because we’re now thinking less in terms of maintaining a status quo simply because it’s the way things are done around here or have been done in the past.

Again, by tackling the question “what should we stop doing” first, we’re developing that critical eye that allows us to understand how we can communicate the changes we’re putting forth to our employees in a way that allows them to get on-board with the proposed changes because they can see the benefit for themselves.

Granted, as with any change initiative, there will be naysayers who question the value and benefit behind making these changes. And that’s why addressing this question next helps to address that uncertainty because now we’re able to qualify why certain measures are being kept in place while others are being tossed aside.

Remember, that the goal in simplifying the way we work is to better connect what we do with why we do what we do [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter].

In addressing this question, it’s important that every process, task, or procedure you consider keeping in place is one where this connection can be clearly seen and articulated, not just by those in charge, but also by those who are responsible for carrying them out.

3. What should we be doing differently?
Finally, the last question we need to ask in this process of decluttering the way we work comes down to that gray zone where the decision is less clear about the value a particular initiative brings to our organization.

Think of this third question as your reserve list for those things that don’t quite make sense to stop doing, but at the same time require some review to ascertain whether it’s fulfilling the objectives behind why we initially put this measure into place.

That’s why this is the last question we want to reflect on because it falls in that hazy zone of uncertainty that’s become the norm of today’s interconnected, global environment; where measures or decisions made months ago can lead to unexpected and even undesired outcomes that we now struggle to address and resolve.

By focusing on decluttering the way we work by first addressing the things we should stop doing and then the things we need to keep on doing, we’re able to create these cardinal points that allow us to get our bearings. To balance that critical eye looking for ways to simplify things against the need to keep our options open in anticipation of the unexpected challenges or obstacles we’ll inevitably face down the road.

This last question gives us that wiggle room to make changes to test, evaluate, and learn how we can function better while at the same time easing up the burden we put on our employees in order to achieve the long-term objectives we’ve defined for our organization.

Granted, this three-question process to declutter the way we work might seem to simplify the process of figuring out where we should be spending the majority of our time and efforts.

But that is the whole point behind this exercise – to get us to recognize the importance of simplifying the way we work in an increasingly complex environment to our ability to connect what matters to our employees with what matters to our organization.

Indeed, in many ways, our ability to succeed at leadership today will depend on our ability to simplify the way we work in a complex world [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter].

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Tanveer Naseer is an award-winning and internationally-acclaimed leadership writer and keynote speaker. He is also the Principal and Founder of Tanveer Naseer Leadership, a leadership coaching firm that works with executives and managers to help them develop practical leadership and team-building competencies to guide organizational growth and development. Tanveer’s writings and insights on leadership and workplace interactions have been featured in a number of prominent media and organization publications, including Forbes, Fast Company, Inc Magazine, Canada’s national newspaper “The Globe and Mail”, The Economist Executive Education Navigator, and the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center.

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