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Create alignment – 10 Lessons to Build an Efficient Organization #4

Introduction to the 10 Lessons to Build an Efficient Organization series

My series of Sun Tzu (who one of the most influential Chinese philosophers) is focused on the topic of how to develop an efficient organization. You might think that these are trivial things and they should be. However, I see that even these trivial things are not working in many organizations. I had to conclude that the fundamental rules of leadership are non-trivial as ego, pride, emotions and thought patterns come in the way.

Manager’s commentary: Much alignment can be built through the basics of:

Setting Objectives

Measuring performance against those objectives

Example: If project goals are defined, it is crucial to have a performance tracking system. I track both my professional and personal time to see the bottlenecks. Setting a goal should be done in a SMART way:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

The goal needs a responsible person and a deadline as well. After a task breakdown and an estimation of the tasks a plan could be created. The more a team works together on similar problems, the better they could estimate the upcoming tasks. Estimation meetings are the perfect place for the teams to analyze and discuss the upcoming work. It will help individuals to understand the required tasks better and share their concerns.

Tracking and a look back on past estimations is the way to improve future estimations. I’ve seen project estimation working well in those where estimation and retrospective meetings were held. I’ve seen projects without estimation meetings and the deadlines were almost always missed.

I’ve seen projects without clearly defined goals. These are never working and that is not a surprise. Without defining a goal and a deadline for a project I wouldn’t expect that it will ever be done in a reasonable time.

Defining a goal and a deadline still doesn’t guarantee that the goal will be reached, however, there is a higher chance. Without definition, the project fails by default.

Fundamental steps to manage a project efficiently

  • Define a project goal, a team, a responsible lead
  • Define a deadline, setup tracking
  • Work and track progress continually, adjust if needed
  • Hold people accountable

Without defining goals and tracking projects could take years without any real progress. I’ve seen this happening multiple times. Unfortunately, this leads to the team being forced to work on the first quadrant of the Eisenhower matrix: the urgent and important tasks (green area in the image below), putting out fires all the time. As there is no focus (no defined goals with deadlines) on not urgent but important tasks (blue area), there is no progress at all on the areas which would improve the overall situation.

The Eisenhower Matrix. It shows 4 quadrants of tasks which are: important / non important, urgent /

What happens? The project is exactly in the same situation as it was a few years ago. I am surprised how many times managers think that by doing some small changes to the processes, the deadlines will be magically kept in the next software release, after not being kept in the past three times.

We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them

– Albert Einstein

If we plan and focus efforts in a meaningful way, projects can run much more smoothly without much wasted time.

What lessons did you learn in your organization?

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