By: Jim Roddy, VP of Marketing & VAR/ISV Business Advisor at the RSPA
Thanks to everyone who shared positive feedback about the five-part Delegate or Die series we’ve published over the past few weeks. Those articles have sparked VARs and ISVs to submit questions and ask for assistance from us.
Here’s an email exchange I had with one executive that I think you’ll find interesting. In bold are his questions/statements followed by my replies.
Q: CEO trying to level up: “I do not know where the balance is between expecting too much out of the people around you and not enough. I’d like to delegate more but everyone around me is saying that they can’t handle what they have now.”
A: There’s no substitute for a manager getting closer to a situation. First, labor reports are a very helpful visibility tool especially when you have more than one person in that position. Also, meet with your people regularly to better understand their work list, how they prioritize it, and how efficient they are.
Example: During my days at Business Solutions Magazine (BSM), we had an editor who said he couldn’t take on any more work because he was already putting in 10+ hours of overtime every week. When we sat down with him and dove into specifics about his labor, we learned it was taking him 8+ hours for every podcast he was recording (2-3 each month). He was using the editing tool to painstakingly edit out every “um” and pause. We let him know that wasn’t a best practice – just cut out the beginning and end and post the rest of the raw conversation. That one adjustment alone saved him 18+ hours each month.
Q: How can I tell if it’s Parkinson’s Law (work expands to fill the time allotted), something else, or if there’s really more to do than is realistic? It’s not easy. There are a lot of variables. The people saying they are too busy are 100% convinced.
A: It is Parkinson’s Law. It’s like gravity – It’s a law even if you deny it. Human beings do allow their work to expand to fit the time allotted. To better understand the situation and how to solve, the leader needs to get closer, help prioritize tasks, and make the team as efficient and effective as possible. Only after that should you increase your labor capacity or decide the team should not take on the new job.
Q: If it is Parkinson’s Law, how do I convince the people chasing their tail that they are doing so? I can tell people what they should be doing and not doing, but that defeats the purpose of delegation.
A: Again, it is always Parkinson’s Law to some degree. The first part of your solution can be found in this statement: “If you can measure it, you can manage it.” Break down what they’re doing into measurables/formulas everyone agrees on, and then move forward toward resolution.
Teaching people what work to prioritize is not flunking delegation. For our editors at BSM, we had a labor formula, reporting structure, and meeting cadence that took away much of the mystery related to labor. Because we huddled as a group and all agreed upon the labor formula, away from the context of an individual’s time crunch, the application of the formula was free from emotion and stress. And when someone got in a pinch or encountered an unusual circumstance, our meeting cadence made sure the problem wouldn’t fester for more than a week. The formula + the dialogue + the reports kept our labor machine humming.
Q: Time management is really, really hard to master. And even if you have mastered it, it requires constant discipline, which is in horribly short supply. Added bonus: time management is as much (probably more) emotional as it is a skill. Added bonus 2X: I have a hard time leading by example. My solution to this problem is to work until it’s done. If it takes 16 hours, so be it.
A: A few things here:
- You are correct that if you don’t build time management skills, you will encounter obstacles teaching time management to others. But don’t feel you need to become a time management guru; you need to know enough to steer your team in the right direction.
- I have never dictated how someone should organize themselves or manage their time. They just need to get the job done. If they’re not getting the job done, we work together to figure out how to do that. My personal time management tactics are 75% paper-based and 25% electronic; if the person I’m working with can get the job done 100% electronic, that’s fine by me!
- The good thing about teaching time management to your team is there is a ton of education available for those who want to improve (including through RSPA Academy EXCELerate). Two of my favorite books on this subject are How To Get Control Of Your Time And Your Life and Crazy Busy.
You don’t have to walk the path to effective delegation and organizational health alone. The RSPA’s VAR and ISV Advisory Services offers to our members one-on-one strategy sessions and staff workshops at no charge. Reach out to me at JRoddy@GoRSPA.org to learn more about how we can help you – and the people on your team who are chasing their tail.