Wednesday, April 18, 2007

How to Get Things Done

A couple of years ago I tried the following excercise - In 30 minutes, write down as many things as I could about how to get things done.

This is far from a complete list, just what I could complete during my self imposed time limit, but I think it is pretty useful. I won't go into details in this post, but will probably follow up with additional posts in areas I think warrant it. In fact, one of my previous posts is an expansion on one of the items in this list - Priorities for Tough Decisions.

How to Get Things Done
  • Know your values, be consistent
      • Do you want to manage or do you want to do?
      • How much influence and responsibility do you want?
      • How much time are you willing to devote to work?
      • What makes you excited to come to work in the morning?
      • What do you expect from the people around you?
  • Know your strengths and play to them
  • Know your weaknesses and pick what needs to be improved and leverage the strengths of people around you
  • Know how you react when under pressure – what does ‘unbalanced’ feel like?
      • Recognize when it is happening so you can adjust your thinking and become effective again
  • Don’t build technology for the sake of technology
      • Solve real problems, don’t treat work like a hobby
  • When making tradeoffs use the following priority stack
      • Company
      • Customer
      • Product
      • Team
      • You
  • Don’t take it personally – focus on getting the job done, not bruises to your ego
  • Set up for success
      • Yourself
      • Those working for you
      • If you know a task is going to fail, change the conditions or abort
      • Don’t just hope for success, have a plan that you know will get you there
  • If you are in trouble, ask for help
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions
      • Even very smart people don’t know everything, those who don’t ask questions are usually scared, not all-knowing
  • Beware of experts
      • Don’t rely on experts to give you all the answers, do your own searching
  • Don’t be a bottleneck
      • This is done out of fear of losing control – allow yourself to trust
  • Before delegating a task, know the task.
      • Do you know how it can be done?
      • Do you know what success looks like?
      • Do you know level of effort and level of skill required?
  • Trailblaze (related to previous)
      • Push the limits, learn how to do something, then let others follow behind
  • Take risks, don’t be afraid to fail
  • Sharpen the axe
      • Don’t spend so much time getting things done that you never have time to improve process, tools, methodology, education, etc.
  • Postmortem
      • At the end of a project/milestone step back and ask how you did, what could go better, what should continue
  • Give feedback in real-time
      • People respond best to quick feedback – otherwise the connection is lost
  • Ask for feedback
      • If you aren’t getting feedback ask and ask and ask
      • Appreciate praise but seek out criticism
  • Be careful of friendships at work
      • Do you value the friend or the goal more highly?
  • Be honest about your limitations
      • If asked to do something you are ill-suited for, explain to your team why you may not be the best choice
      • But, don’t be afraid to jump in and do it anyway
  • Set expectations
      • Describe to your manager what you'll be able to accomplish
      • Describe to those working for you, what you expect from them
          • Be explicit about what makes you satisfied, happy, upset, etc. so they know what to expect
  • Hire for a role not for a personality
      • Don’t hire someone and then try to fit that person in to your organization.
      • Instead perform a gap analysis – know what you need, define a position, then look for the individual who represents the best fit.
  • Know how others see you
      • Are you a leader?
      • Are you effective?
      • Are you valued on the team?
  • Know your manager's priorities and how he is being evaluated for success
      • If your priorities misalign with management then:
          • Change your priorities
          • Or influence your manager to change their priorities
          • Or leave for a position that aligns better
  • Bring something to the table
      • In any relationship – team, coworker, company – know what value you bring
  • Dig into cracks
      • Look for signs of a problem in results or assumptions
      • Dig into the problem until you fully understand it
  • Know your long-term goals
      • Know where you want to be in 5 years so your current decisions have a long-term purpose.
  • Keep your options open
      • When making a decision that balances short term gain for long term flexibility lean toward long term flexibility
  • Know who your friends and enemies are
      • Who can you trust, who is competing with you, who wants you dead
  • Understand the root cause of objections raised by others
      • Are they based in reality?
      • Are they based on perceived threat?
      • Are they based on misinformation?
  • Reality vs. perception
      • Know what is real
      • Know what is the common perception
      • Know that perception will win over reality in group opinion
  • Be pragmatic
      • Do what it takes to achieve your goals without conflicting with your values.
      • Don’t be too idealistic or rigid in your approach
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alik levin said...

James, what a collection of gems!!
Seems like it is going to be my morning set up read :)

Thanks for sharing this

Nagesh said...

Solid thoughts; Best management approach.

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