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Multitask Less and Achieve More

Does it sometimes feel like you’re working a lot, yet you can’t get anything done? Don’t worry, you most certainly are not alone. I also used to suffer from a sickness I like to call serious multitasking. It’s quite closely related to the lack of concentration, idling and running aimlessly. I’ve come to the conclusion that serious multitasking seems to be on the increase, because for one information worker there simply are too many things to do and follow simultaneously.

Regarding work and especially results, serious multitasking is destructive, as the most serious symptom of serious multitasking is that nothing ever seems to be completed. This leads to an unhappy circle of events: when you can’t score off anything from your To-Do list, you won’t get the experiences of success, which eventually leads to decrease in motivation.

Luckily there’s a cure for this disease. I started my healing process immediately after joining Cloudriven. Although some of the symptoms still apper from time to time, I feel relieved and – most importantly – I can score off tasks from my To-Do list every week. For people suffering from a serious case of multitasking, I recommend the following three point treatment.

1) Manage Weeks, Not Years

Our CEO Jukka has said that change can’t be managed over a weekend. If actions are not monitored weekly, temptation to procrastinate is way too big. Loose and long deadlines tend to make us passive, because by nature we underestimate the time that is needed to perform a task. On a weekly basis it’s also easy to confirm, that we all are doing right and meaningful things that support the shared goals.

At Cloudriven we naturally have certain strategic goals and metrics. Instead of monitoring the metrics once a quartal or a year, we keep track of the metrics weekly by using our own Habit designed for performance management. This way we can react fast to changes and our employees’ motivation and engagement will stay high, because we can concretely see that our actions have consequences.

Our actions have a direct effect on the strategic metrics of the company.

Our actions have a direct effect on the strategic metrics of the company.

2) Choose Three Things You Promise to Deliver

The five day work week is surprisingly short, whereas a year feels like a lifetime. Yet, there are only 52 weeks in a year and at least four of those the worker spends on holiday. In average there are approximately 47 work weeks in a calendar year.

We’ve come to the conclusion that you should only concentrate on three things per week. That is why we promise in our Monday meeting to finish three tasks. The amount of tasks might sound small but in addition each of us has also other work-related responsibilities which take time. The trickiest part is to choose tasks of the right size: if you’re too greedy, time runs out. Thanks to our management system, I’ve developed a clear understanding of what I can achieve during one work week. This makes personal time management a lot easier.

47 weeks x 3 tasks = 141 accomplished tasks in a year. Serious multitasking doesn’t bring you these kinds of figures!

3) Create Positive Social Pressure to Motivate

Every Monday in our weekly “laputus” meeting (laputus is Finnish and means the act of sticking notes on a wall) we go through the tasks of last and beginning week. Positive social pressure is created, when everyone can briefly report about their doings. It’s always nicer to tell about achievements than explain away why you haven’t been able to finish the tasks. We write the three tasks down on Post-It notes and we return to them next Monday.

We also follow the tasks in our own Habit. You get points for every accomplished Post-It note and it’s easy to check from the results view, how many have reached their weekly target. To make a point of giving points, you can buy small prizes (for example, a bottle of sparkling) from the Habit point store.

We report and monitor strategic metrics in Habit on a weekly basis.

We report and monitor strategic metrics in Habit on a weekly basis.

In Habit, positive social pressure is being created with an encouraging competition. You get points for accomplishing tasks.

In Habit, positive social pressure is being created with an encouraging competition. You get points for accomplishing tasks.

You can buy small prizes from the point store.

You can buy small prizes from the point store.

So seriously, stop multitasking and start achieving! We’d be glad to tell you more tips about increasing your own and your team’s productivity. Leave your e-mail address and we’ll offer you FREE first aid for the most acute emergency.

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Information Worker Has a Lot to Learn But Never Enough Time

“Learning is a new form of labor.”
– Shoshana Zuboff

Information worker’s chaotic desktop fills up with problems which don’t have a simple solution. There’s just a huge amount of information: e-mails, meetings, tweets, opinions, text, images, videos, good news and bad news, strategies and definitions of policies. And we shouldn’t forget the Excel-tables. Using your best analysis skills and creativity you should be able to give birth to something new and innovative from this cornucopia of sources. That is, you should find a solution.

It’s impossible to separate learning from work in today’s world

It’s impossible to separate learning from work in today’s world. Studying isn’t anymore a strictly defined part of life, which precedes working life. Especially in information work, executing tasks successfully requires constant learning and adoption of new things, because the problems at hand seldom are similar in content or even by nature. For example, consultant’s every project assignment is different, economist has to keep track of the changes affecting economy and development manager has to know the latest technology and business trends.

“I’m in a hurry, I don’t have time for that.” Does it sound familiar? One of the reasons why we are not actively developing our own competencies even if we want to, is that we simply don’t have time for it. We spend our working hours and maybe even a bit of our spare time doing routine tasks which leave us no time for learning, although the manager has given us permission to use working hours for studying during the mandatory development discussion. “We’re really investing in our employees competencies. We’re expecting you to actively find ways to develop yourself, even during the working hours.” When your calendar is full of client and in-house meetings and your ToDo-list is longer than an old man’s beard, developing your own skills and competencies is not the first thing to spring to mind. How to find time for learning when you don’t have any time left?

In network society, knowledge is fragmented and the production of knowledge scattered. The efficient use of knowledge requires close collaboration with different experts and professionals. The amount of data is expected to tenfold by 2020 to a staggering 44 billion gigabytes. Analysis of this vast information mass can’t be done merely by one Analyst, not even if you’re a Senior Analyst. Knowledge doesn’t reside just in one person’s head, rather knowledge is being made in interaction with others. On the other hand, the competition on labour markets is fierce and you have to be proud of your own skills and competencies and try to stand out from the crowd. How to build productive collaboration but still stand out from others?

What about motivation? Anu wrote in our previous blog post that motivation plays a big role in learning. Learning results of a motivated learner are noticeably better than of learners’ who consider learning as just a necessity. Daniel Pink proves in his widely read (yet very little understood) book Drive: The Surprising Truth About Motivation, that money and rewards boost better performance only in simple, performance-based work, whereas using such external motivators in tasks that require problem solving skills and creativity may even deteriorate performance levels. Information worker’s motivation for both work and learning can be found somewhere else: namely in Purpose, Mastery and Autonomy.

Time management, collaboration, motivation. How can you use these three elements to enhance learning in your organization? Here are some tips:

  • Make self-learning as easy as possible, for example short videos work well as learning material
  • Guide the learner and ensure the learning process is ascending and goal-directed
  • Let the learner monitor his own learning progress, so that he remains motivated
  • Give the learner instant feedback
  • It’s more fun to learn together and it also increases learning motivation and results
  • Make learning possible wherever and whenever by offering learning materials for mobile phones and tablets

These remarks have lead to the development of our own gamified Habit for eLearning concept. What do you think? How can we make it easier to develop our own competencies in the workplace?

Henry Ford Management Style Doesn’t Work in Information Work

I had a chance to talk about managing collaboration on Thursday 30th May at Information Worker Productivity day. I presented a seven step model of successful collaboration management from information systems point of view (check the SlideShare presentation below). I want to highlight one of the themes discussed with the audience after the presentation. How to maximize the business benefits of enterprise social features and why Henry Ford management style doesn’t work when we are working with information?

Enterprise software, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and SharePoint for instance, include many social features but still the benefits of the features are not fully realized. Usually the root cause for inadequate business benefits is one of the following:

1) Platform capabilities are not connected to processes producing business value or
2) The management has not yet understood how to affect business results by managing interactions

Problem in point 1) is usually that the use of the technical capabilities software provides is not managed as a part of the business process. For example our CRM product, Virta (Flow), enables adding meeting notes as comments. If sales management decides that meeting notes must be added to the CRM after every business meeting and the new practice will be monitored in sales teams’ weekly meetings, customer knowledge will start to grow rapidly. This will increase exponentially the value the commenting feature generates.

Root cause in problem 2) is the change in the productive way of working. Many organizations still manage work according to the ideas of late Henry Ford. Management models which were effective in industrial work cannot be applied on “as is” basis on today’s information work. A car that moved on the production line connected workers’ efforts to each other and to the process generating value. It was easy to see by looking at the car if the previous guy had mounted the coachwork.

However, the information work era has multiplied the number of tasks, the “production lines” are scattered and the value chains of work differ from task to task. The sight of the information workers sitting in their cubes is not informative anymore because the manager cannot answer to the following questions just by looking at information workers at the office:

− what tasks are in the making?
− who is doing what?
− what is concretely being made?

When it comes to information work, the problem with Ford’s ideas is that neither the actions required nor the quality differences of the actions are understood. Thus it is impossible to understand how different actions generate results. KPIs are typically on tactical or strategic level and highlight only the results achieved last week, month or year. They do not help management to take corrective actions or encourage desired actions. The most advanced organizations measure the number of key actions but the quality aspects are not monitored on task level.

Henry Ford Management Style Doesn't Fit to Today's Information WorkQuantitative analysis of actions can be applied to both number of actions required and the quality of them. This will help management to organize work and give feedback. The trick is that the significance of the interactions between information workers and interactions across company borders must be understood. The results of this kind of analysis give us insight into what interactions should be managed and how. For example, we found out in one of our customer projects that the amount of times an offer was modified in CRM explained largely the number of sales closed. Based on this observation a sales model was deployed which ensured enough sales activities during the sales project. This allowed the management to monitor the quality of sales communication by adjusting the forecasting model and studying how the coefficient of determination develops.

The role of the information system in information work is to make it as easy as possible to input and utilize data. Results can only be achieved if it has been made sure that enough activities are being carried out and that these activities are of sufficient quality.

Sign Up for a Day for Information Workers

Peaches Industries, Cloudriven, eWork Nordic, Tieturi and Onsight Helsinki organize together Finland’s first productivity day for information workers in Keilaranta 30.5. at 12.30―19.00. The seminar addresses the facts on how we can improve the productivity of our everyday work both at the organization and individual level. We have gathered up the best speakers of their field!

The session is free and in english.

Sign up

What, where, when?

When? Thursday 30.5. at 12.30―19.00
Where? Auditorium, Keilaranta 1, Espoo Finland
Catering? Refreshments and light snacks
Parking? Free parking is limited

Program

12.30 Door opening

13:00 Welcome speech – Chris Müller, co-founder and CEO Peaches Industries, MVP SharePoint

13:15 Consultancy markets – Magnus Silen, Managing Director eWork Finland

13:30 Keynote – Social Business and how to increase Productivity with Social Computing

Speaker: Andrew Watson, Senior Capability Manager, Groupware and Social Media at Nokia

Why networks are so important in a modern social business
Unlocking the potential of your employee to create value
Avoiding the traps of information overload and siloed mindset
Reducing your cost by cultivating a knowledge-base workforce
Structuring your Intranet to maximize output and minimize overheads

14:15 Session 1 – Seven steps to success in managing collaboration quality

Speaker: Jukka Koskenkanto, CEO, Cloudriven Oy

Today most enterprise software is collaboration software. The technology is developing with accelerating speed, but does it make any difference? The 7 steps to success – a guide to cash in collaboration is built based on the key findings of a case study “Forecasting B2B sales in professional services industry” and years of hands-on work.

15:00 Break

15:15 Session 2 – From zero to hero with Gamification, bring your Intranet user adoption to the next level

Speakers: Tim Gorree, Gamification evangelist and Jussi Mori, co-founder Peaches Industries Ltd.

It is very hard to address end user adoption within enterprise portal environments. With Social computing making its way into the modern enterprises of today, Gamification is an innovative concept of driving and influencing end user adoption and motivation. With Gamification we use game concepts to motivate end users to be more productive and have more fun at work. This session will give an overview about the Gamification concept and how it could be implemented in a modern information worker environment.

16:00 Break

16:15 Session 3 – Towards Zero inbox: Being ultraproductive with SharePoint 2013

Speaker: Jussi Roine, co-founder of Onsight and Microsoft Certified Master

What’s zero inbox and why should I care about it?
The productivity tools of today
Feeling busy, being busy or being productive?
Achieving Zero inbox!

17:00 Panel discussion with all speakers

17:30 Open networking – Refreshments and food sponsored by Peaches Industries and partners