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2014
tbrouill

Collaboration Commitment

Posted by tbrouill Jun 29, 2014

Building commitment to your collaborative partnership across your partner members is such a critical ingredient to the success of your partnership that I feel it is critical to continue to highlight the importance.  Collaboration has quickly become one of the most important topics in business circles.  It seems that lately you can’t visit a website, open a business magazine, browse a professional network without encountering multiple references to collaboration and the importance of the partners in your network.  All of these references highlight the importance of collaboration in your global business interactions.  I completely agree with the level of importance placed on collaboration and believe further that a critical ingredient to the success of any collaborative partnership is the commitment of the partners.


In order to develop and grow a successful collaborative partnership I believe that you must treat the partnership as a living thing that requires nurturing.  This can be done through encouraging and engaging the your partners to participate.  Your business collaborative partnership is another form of social network and requires the same type of participation from the partner members as other social networks in order to grow and prosper.  There are some differences, obviously, between your business collaborative network and a social network.  The key difference is the focus on delivery for your business collaborative network.


What I mean by a focus on delivery is that your business collaborative partnership comes together with a goal of improving the capabilities and increasing value for all partners and this means that your interactions will focus on these values and capability delivery.  You must take this into account with your interactions and working relationships with your partners.  One thing that I find helps to maintain this viewpoint is that you should remember that in your collaborative partnership you and your company is not the center of the universe.  In fact it is important to remember in your dealings that everyone in the partnership is just as important in their ‘universe’ as you are in yours.  This, I think, is the key reason why you must focus on encouraging participation of the members.


Partner engagement in collaboration is the key to achieving the value and capability improvements.  Partner engagement requires constant focus along with give and take to ensure the value is delivered.  Finally, partner engagement requires open and honest communication across and between all participant partners to ensure the continued participation.  I think that one of the best methods to encourage participation of the partners is to encourage them to lead committees or practice centers that can benefit from their experience.  Give the partners the opportunity to lead in their specialties and their commitment to the partnership will increase.  Its human nature for people to want to share their expertise and be perceived as a leader or a specialist and this provides them the opportunity to shine.  Take advantage of this trait and social behavior to increase the commitment and value of the partnership.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


Have you discussed efficiencies with your collaborative partners?  What kind of tricks do you practice when you are multi-tasking?  How does technology impact your ability to mutli-task?  How does the blurring of the professional and personal aspects impact your life?

Instituting a committee framework as a key point to your collaboration partnership framework can bring a great return on your investment.  In fact I think that this can be a key tool to the success and continued return on investment from your partnerships.  These ROI returns come from two perspectives; the need to engage management consultant specialists to perform many of your investigation and evaluations could be dramatically reduced or even eliminated; and the need to engage outside research organizations would be dramatically reduced or even eliminated.  In addition to those hard benefits there are soft benefits that will be achieved through the committee framework in the form of team building, trust building and also commitment to the collaborative partnership from the partners.


The hard benefits can be very compelling to the acceptance of the committee framework across the partnership.  These can be achieved by taking advantage of the depth and variety of experience and capabilities across the collaborative partnerships.  In fact I suggest that you will drive to expand and extend your partners as you begin to achieve and confirm the benefits that are gained through the committee framework.  Your partners will provide the extended industry input and expertise into your evaluations that would normally only be achieved by engaging management consultants.  This benefit applies to all directions and to all of the partners in your partnership.


In addition to the extended industry expertise and experiences supporting evaluations without expensive external management consultants, your partners will also be able to provide valuable input into your specialty tool evaluation and selection.  The first hand experience from your partners along with the surrounding extended industry experience will provide invaluable input into your tools and strategic planning that would have previously required engaging expensive research organizations and again expensive management consultants.


Don’t get me wrong, I believe there is a time and a place for expertise from outside management consultant organizations. In previous discussions I have explained that the result of the recession and reduction in staffing has lead to an increase in the need for outside help.  I do believe though that many of the circumstances that you would normally engage outside help could be eliminated, or at a minimum dramatically reduced through the engagement of a strong collaborative partnership.  In addition, I also believe that the value you achieve through this program or framework will continue to grow and expand as your experience participation across partners grows and expands. 


Finally, and perhaps just as important as the hard benefits above are the soft benefits that will be achieved through this program or framework.  The key benefits I see are the commitment of the participants to the partnership and through this commitment the expansion, growth and stability of the partners in the partnership.  Of these the critical benefit is the increased commitment to the partnership.  The commitment to the success of the partnership will be the most critical ingredient to the growth and expansion of your partnership.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


Have you discussed efficiencies with your collaborative partners?  What kind of tricks do you practice when you are multi-tasking?  How does technology impact your ability to mutli-task?  How does the blurring of the professional and personal aspects impact your life?

tbrouill

Collaboration Committees

Posted by tbrouill Jun 25, 2014

I want to continue the discussion on the importance and benefits of committees across your collaboration partners.  One of the key benefits of the collaborative partnership is the experience and capabilities that each of the partners bring to the table.  These experiences and capabilities will be valuable to support the requirements of the partnership in an efficient manner.  One good method to take advantage of these capabilities is utilizing committees to share these capabilities across the partnership.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating management by committee, I am saying though that in the collaborative partnership framework the committee is a very important practice. 


One of the key reasons for developing a collaborative partnership is to be able to take advantage of the capabilities of the individual partners across the partnership.  One key method to take advantage across the partnership is the implementation and integration of committees that are lead by the partner with the greatest level of expertise.  Then the members of the committee should include at least a cross section of the partnership that can provide input regarding objectives and requirements.  This develops a give and take type of framework that encourages participation and can also quickly define solutions to the challenges of the partnership. 


I’ve said that I do not advocate management by committee and yet I am also advocating implementation of a committee type of framework to support the partnership.  I know these two concepts seem to be at odds but they can be used on conjunction with each if you implement a committee framework that forms the committee to address a specific problem and then drops the committee when the challenge is addressed.  One of the challenges that I see in a collaborative partnership is how to maintain a high level of interest and participation in the partnership.  Many times I think that partnerships fail because everyone in the partnership believes that they should be the leader of the partnership.  This leads to challenges because everyone can’t be in charge.


The committee framework addresses this challenge by sharing the leadership across the partnership based on capability to provide leadership and also the needs of the partnership that is defined as requirements or objectives to meet the challenge.  This concept of a committee forming based on a challenge, utilizing the skills of a partner to lead the response to the challenge, including representatives from the partners that are impacted by the challenge to develop a response to the challenge can be a formidable tool and capability of the partnership.  This tool allows the partnership to quickly and efficiently bring direct experience to address the challenge without additional cost to the individual partners.  This cost factor is the most compelling point of this committee framework.  Without the partnership and the experience from partners to help to address the challenge I think that it is safe to say that many organizations would engage specialist consultants, at a hefty fee, to develop a response to the challenge.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


Have you discussed efficiencies with your collaborative partners?  What kind of tricks do you practice when you are multi-tasking?  How does technology impact your ability to mutli-task?  How does the blurring of the professional and personal aspects impact your life?

tbrouill

Tools Across Partners

Posted by tbrouill Jun 22, 2014

You can agree to the data requirements, frequency, and integration standards across your collaboration partners necessary to support and improve the communications and collaboration across partners.  You cannot however very easily dictate the tools that will be utilized to support these requirements.  The beauty of the cloud capabilities and Internet connectivity is that it eliminates the necessity to settle on a common tool platform.  This has been the great benefit of first the Internet and then the cloud technology.  This discussion is not about the impressive capabilities that you can leverage from the cloud and Internet, though.  This discussion is about how you can improve your efficiencies across your partners by leveraging tools and capabilities.


I started this discussion with the premise that you can agree to the requirements, frequency and standards across your partners, in other words, the requirements.   You should also notice that this follows my premise that you should always focus on the requirements and delivering the requirements first.  It is then up to the partners to develop the most efficient means to deliver these requirements.  There is one critical point, or more appropriately, critical opportunity that should be taken into account in this initiative to integrate and deliver the data and that is a shared design and selection of the tools utilized to deliver the requirements.  This relatively simple process can dramatically increase the the speed of delivery and the quality of tool selection and the differentiating factor in this is the utilization of tool capabilities.


This collaborative design and selection of tools is one of the critical values to your collaborative partnerships.  In addition, this is also one of the key factors to developing and strengthening the collaborative relationships.  This function provides dramatic mutual benefits to all of the partners.  My suggestion is that you should create a technology best practices committee that includes members from each of your collaboration partners.  This committee will provide a repository of best practices and tools suggestions and evaluations that are created by the partners and shared across the partnership.  This will help to improve the delivery time of both the evaluation of tools and the design of the processes to deliver on the requirements. 


I have previously discussed the types of mutual benefits can be achieved, and should be targeted, from the collaborative partnerships.  This technology best practices committee can be one of the linchpins to delivering strong benefits and strengthening the relationships across partners.  I believe very strongly that this type of committee is one of key ingredients to the long term success of your partnerships and will only increase in value as your partnerships grow.  Another benefit to implementation of this type of committee is that it can be a proving ground for the benefits and act as an incubator process to grow the collaborative sharing through committees.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


Have you discussed efficiencies with your collaborative partners?  What kind of tricks do you practice when you are multi-tasking?  How does technology impact your ability to mutli-task?  How does the blurring of the professional and personal aspects impact your life?

tbrouill

Efficiency with Partners

Posted by tbrouill Jun 21, 2014

A positive aspect of the old adage ‘when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail’, is that you should always be looking for new ways to use tools and increase your efficiencies.  For this reason I think that collaboration across both internal and external partners may be the next ‘frontier’ in improving efficiencies.  This should also be a very prominent benefit that you call out in your collaboration business case justification and value proposition for developing and expanding your collaboration partnerships.  In this example however you are not solving a problem, you are discovering additional and valuable uses of your current tools set. 


I want to reiterate though that it is important to focus on the process and how one of your current tools can support the process and not the reverse.  The evaluation should focus on support of the process, in the case of using tools across, or between, your partners it is important to maintain this focus on the process.  Obviously the evaluation of process across your partners can be more complicated because of differences in culture, language or definition and tools.  This is an important activity to complete and this can also be a complicated activity and for those reasons the effort and focus should not be shorted.  Don’t let the complication stop you from taking on the challenge though, I believe that this activity can bring the single greatest value to your collaboration initiative.


Collaboration doesn’t just happen because you want it to, its not something that you will into being.  It takes hard work and planning in order to be successful.  Success in collaboration is a little like technology such as an iphone or android phone.  By this I mean that the end result of a successful tool like a smartphone looks very simple but the underlying workings are very complicated and required a great deal of effort and planning to put into place.  Collaboration, as I mention, has an even higher level of complication because of all of the different people, organizations, cultures, regulations and laws that can come into play.  This level of complication requires practices, principles procedures and tools in order to successful.  When your collaborative partnership is successful all of your efforts and tools will harness and direct the complication in a manner that makes the collaboration seem natural and simple.


The tools that I have been discussing that you incorporate to improve your personal efficiencies can also be utilized to support and enhance your collaboration capabilities.   Your framework to access and utilize tools across platforms can just as easily be utilized to support your collaboration capabilities across internal and external organizations.  This framework will also improve the efficiencies of your collaboration capabilities and as a result will improve the efficiencies of all of the participating partners.  Again though, the tools must support your process and procedures in order to bring together the capabilities to meet and succeed in those processes and procedures. 


Simplicity is hard and takes a lot of planning and effort so don’t underestimate the effort involved in successfully delivering efficiencies through collaboration.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


Have you discussed efficiencies with your collaborative partners?  What kind of tricks do you practice when you are multi-tasking?  How does technology impact your ability to mutli-task?  How does the blurring of the professional and personal aspects impact your life?

tbrouill

Maintaining Currency

Posted by tbrouill Jun 19, 2014

Complacency will hold you back in your personal life and your professional career and complacency will also hold you back in your tools and technology.  Complacency in your technology tools will hold you back just as surely as surely as it will in your personal life or professional career.  I define complacency in your tools and technology as lack of maintaining the current versions and not exploring features and functions to support your changing requirements and objectives.  This complacency in your current tools utilization can also lead to additional and unnecessary spending when you assume that your current tools won’t support your expanded needs.  This is a kind of variation on the ‘shiny object’ syndrome.


I think everyone has heard of the ‘shiny object’ syndrome but just in case let me recap.  This describes the tendency of some people to shift attention continuously to the next new thing (shiny object).  How does complacency in your current tools influenced by the ‘shiny object’ syndrome?   Complacency in your current tools leads you to believe that your current tools will not support your new and changing needs because you currently don’t use the features.  I personally find this surprising because I have found for the most part that tools include more features and functions than you would want or need to use.  So the idea that you ‘need’ a new tool because of some advertising claim or trade magazine article is frankly rather hard for me to swallow.


The challenge for any organization, or person for that matter, as it relates to the tools you use to support your everyday activities and efficiecies, is to institute a process to review and evaluate those tools, or more simply put, you must institute a tool evaluation process.  This process should include the honest evaluation of the new requirements along with the value delivered by the new requirements.  The process must continue through the honest evaluation and comparison of your current tools against the new tools.  This evaluation must also take into account not only the value provided by the requirements, it must also take into account the cost of implementing a new tool. 


This cost of implementation must include training and any conversion requirements into the comparison equation.  I have found that the total cost of implementation is one of the key challenges to overcome with any tool replacement.  In fact, I think the cost of tool replacement or upgrade is probably the single greatest hurdle to the successful replacement.  I think that a key factor that many organizations overlook is the training.  After all if you are upgrading a tool that you already are using you do not require training, right?  I think this is the wrong way to look at the upgrade.  You must look at an upgrade as a means to achieve greater value and not simply as a requirement to maintain support.  In order to achieve the value you must include training to help your organization take advantage of the new capabilities.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


How do you view tool upgrade initiatives?  Do you view it as a means to maintain support from the vendor or do you encourage people to take advantage the new capabilities? 

Utilizing tools for multiple reasons is not a new concept, and it is no different in this example where tools that were developed to improve efficiencies can be utilized to support your collaboration efforts.  I’ve said this before in previous discussions and this time is no different, the critical point of focus should be in defining your process and objectives prior to any tool selection.  In my most recent discussions I focused on the mis-aligned and mis-defined focus on multi tasking and my belief that there really is no such thing as multi tasking so you must focus on improved efficiency.  Then the focus on improved efficiency lead to tools that I showed would also improve collaboration.  This now leads to my suggestion that improved collaboration, or more accurately increased collaboration will also improve your efficiencies. 


Collaboration across both internal and external partners may be the next ‘frontier’ in improving efficiencies.  This should also be a very prominent benefit that you call out in your justification and value proposition definition for developing and expanding your collaboration partnerships.  This is why I started this discussion on the discovery of multiple uses for tools; in fact you may also view this as a positive aspect of the adage - when the only tool you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.  In this example however you are not solving a problem, you are discovering additional uses of your current tools set.  I want to reiterate though that it is important to focus on the process and if one of your tools can support the process and not the reverse. 


Another equally important point I want to discuss is the importance of maintaining currency in the tool features and capabilities.  You must try not to be complacent in using the features of the tool when these features and capabilities are continuously upgraded and improved.  As an example, Google Docs regularly releases new features and what they call Add-ons.  One recent Add-on is a workflow document review, edit and approval function.  Maintaining curiosity and periodically investigating new features helped me to discover and incorporate this new functionality in my own collaboration activities. 


I’ve diverted a little from the topic at hand with the above examples however I think it was important to provide those examples as a means of demonstrating the subject.  The very tools that you incorporate to improve your personal efficiencies can also be utilized to support and enhance your collaboration capabilities.   Your framework to access and utilize tools across platforms can just as easily be utilized to support your collaboration capabilities across internal and external organizations.  This framework will also improve the efficiencies of your collaboration capabilities and as a result will improve the efficiencies of all of the participating partners.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


What kind of tricks do you practice when you are multi-tasking?  How does technology impact your ability to mutli-task?  How does the blurring of the professional and personal aspects impact your life?

One interesting point regarding the tools that I utilize to improve my own personal and professional efficiencies is that these are also some of the same tools that support collaboration, both personal and professional.  These tools are not only important to sharing and utilizing my own information, communications and workflow across all of the platforms that I utilize in my own personal efficiencies, they can also be configured to share information, communication and workflow across external collaboration partners.  This collaboration framework can also be configured to expand across your partners as the size and the complexity of your collaboration network expands.


I find it very interesting that the very tools that I’ve embraced to improve my own efficiency provide the basis to support personal and professional collaboration.  The second interesting and even exciting point of these tools is that being in the open tools genre they are continuously growing, expanding and improving.  I realize that this sounds like a commercial for these tools but the capabilities are beginning to grow in leaps and bounds to bring benefits to both your efficiencies and your collaborative capabilities.  From a tools perspective I see that the tools available as freeware provide a robust set of tools that compete very strongly with the paid software and services. 


There is one additional piece, or capability, that has been improving dramatically over the years and that piece is the network capabilities.  The expanded and improved network capabilities provide the plumbing to make the expansion of these efficiency and collaboration tools possible.  I am old enough to remember the beginnings of the personal use of the Internet and the changes that exploded when the World Wide Web capabilities became available.  Each improvement and expansion of capability has increased the value of the tools and the Internet and the expansion and improvements in the network capabilities has been a key factor in encouraging the expansion.  We have reached the point now where the wireless network capabilities are pushing to the same level as the wired capabilities, making the internet a ubiquitous tool providing connectivity in almost every location. 


The availability of the Internet has increased the value and the capabilities of these efficiency and collaboration tools dramatically.  It is important to choose tools that provide the same capabilities across platforms in order to increase your efficiencies.  For instance when I read an email in gmail, that status is available to any platform from which I may access that email.  Another, and more pertinent example relating improved efficiencies to increased collaborative capabilities is related to document management.  I can open a document on any platform that can access the Internet and then when I modify the document on one platform the changes are available on any other platform at the same time.  This capability can also be utilized to support your collaboration activities.  This is just one additional benefit that can be achieved when you embrace efficiency improvement tools.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


What kind of tricks do you practice when you are multi-tasking?  How does technology impact your ability to mutli-task?  How does the blurring of the professional and personal aspects impact your life?

tbrouill

Mullti Tasking Tools

Posted by tbrouill Jun 13, 2014

There are many tools that can help you to increase your efficiencies and after you’ve evaluated and implemented methods to improve your execution it is time to review tools.  In my experience before you make any type of tool selection you must first clearly understand and define the requirements along with the value, or benefits, related to those requirements.  Selecting a tool because its popular does not mean that the tool will deliver on the requirements and bring you the value.  You must select a tool, or tools, that meet your needs, this can have a dramatic impact on improving your efficiencies.  Based on my own experience with tool selection I do not think I’m over dramatizing the importance of selecting the right tools.


I think that the selection of tools available is becoming more varied and robust with the explosion of social and collaborative tools.  These tools make your selection process a little more difficult simply because there are so many tools to choose from.  I have identified what I consider to be best practices  in making the selection.  These practices are focused on evaluating tools based on how they meet the requirements, in addition these practices have helped me to broaden the focus of the evaluation in order to meet a broad spectrum of objectives.  These are not complicated but they will help you to review tools and capabilities objectively.


For me the key best practice is the tool’s ability to function across platforms and this includes the ability to view and update across platforms to support collaborative efforts across partners and team members.  This leads to a second best practice of mine, you should select tools that can share capabilities across platforms.  The last best practice I have is simply remaining focused on your business requirements.  I’ve found that for my purposes these three practices help me to remain focused on the objective and not be overly influenced by cool features.  Remember, cool features lose their shine and if they don’t work effectively and efficiently across platforms you’ve just wasted your time and efforts.


Let me provide an example from my personal computing practices.  I’ve selected the Google platform and tools for my personal computing, from a Chrome laptop to the Samsung smartphone.  I made this selection because the platform allows me to access and utilize information across any platform through the Internet.  Starting with this framework that works across platforms, I added to that cloud storage using Google Drive and added Google apps that allow me to access and update across platforms.  Then I converted all of my email accounts to deliver through Gmail.  Finally I’ve started using a notes tool called Evernote that provides a robust framework to capture notes, and lists and collaborate across all platforms in real time.  From a process perspective, I’ve eliminated printing all but the the items that absolutely must be printed and then even the documents that must be printed for signature I scan the copy for electronic storage. 


These tools are very effective for improving my personal efficiencies and reduce the confusion and duplication of effort.  The critical factor for my selection was tools that are open and support cross platform capabilities and collaborative opportunities.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


What kind of tricks do you practice when you are multi-tasking?  How does technology impact your ability to mutli-task?  How does the blurring of the professional and personal aspects impact your life?

tbrouill

Mullti Tasking Methods

Posted by tbrouill Jun 11, 2014

Method and process is critical to your success in multi-tasking and a pre-disposition to multi-tasking can be a great help.  However it is difficult to develop a pre-disposition to multi-tasking so you must focus on your method and process.  I’ve come to the belief a while ago that the method and process must be based on project management principles.  These principles require that you define your tasks and then coordinate execution based on priority and effort, this method comes under many names but the concept is based on standard project management principles. 

Any name that you use to describe the method and the process does not obscure the fact that  it all comes down to how do you interweave tasks to complete more in the same timeframe. I would add one additional point that served me well over the years - always wait to start a task until all the pieces required to complete the task are available. This is a point that I learned from theory of constraints - you can increase your efficiency if you do not to start a task until it can be completed.

The objective of this discussion is to help become more efficient and then with an increase in efficiency you will be able to complete more activities in the same amount of time.  You can increase your efficiency by eliminating unnecessary work and the theory of constraints principle suggests that you can eliminate unnecessary work by starting a task only when you have everything required to complete the task.  The reason for this suggestion improves your efficiency is that you eliminate the unnecessary work required to restart tasks and can focus that newly available time to completing additional tasks.  In order to meet and take advantage of this principle you must re-evaluate how you define the components of your tasks. 


This is where project management concepts and principles come into play.  Project management planning and definition processes suggest that you continue to break down activities to sub-tasks until you have reached the point where a task cannot be broken down any longer.  Following this process will help you to break your assignments and to-do lists into the lowest level of sub-task so they can be more manageable and easier to complete in a shorter period of time.  These practices will increase your efficiencies and allow you to complete more activities in a shorter period of time.


Incorporating these practices into your daily routine requires focus and dedication at first, until it becomes second nature and ingrained in your routine.  I think that you will find though that these practices will increase your output without reducing the quality.  The reason why texting is illegal in so many states in because you cannot focus on two things at once without reducing the focus on both things and making driving dangerous.  Considering this you should not fool yourself into thinking that you can be successful in multi-tasking in your personal or professional life.  You can however increase your efficiency though the above practices.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


What kind of tricks do you practice when you are multi-tasking?  How does technology impact your ability to mutli-task?  How does the blurring of the professional and personal aspects impact your life?

I sometimes think that multi-tasking is generally confused with execution efficiencies because an underlying reason that people try to multi-task is that they are trying to complete more tasks in the same period of time.  One of the key benefits, or outcomes, of multi-tasking is an improvement in productivity.  We’ve all heard over the years about the dramatic improvements in productivity that have been achieved over the years and these benefits have resulted in dramatic improvements in profits.  From my personal experience and observations we have achieved an improvement in profits from completing more with the same number of people through two factors; automation of tasks and the convergence of professional and personal time through the proliferation of technology.  In other words, we’ve achieved more through automation and longer work days.


Considering these facts, I suggest it is time to utilize lean principles and also theory of constraints principles to improve the effectiveness and efficiencies of your multi-tasking activities.  A good example of utilizing lean principles to improve your efficiencies is the example that I provided previously of taking meeting notes electronically rather than hand written on paper and then transposing to electronic version for distribution.  I think its unreasonable and unrealistic to execute a formal continuous improvement program to improve your day-to-day multi-tasking.  However, I think it is reasonable and in fact a necessity that you personally review your multi-tasking activities with an eye towards efficiencies and elimination of unnecessary tasks.


Another key ingredient to improving your multi-tasking efficiencies is utilizing principles of theory of constraints practices.  The key principles that I suggest should be utilized in your multi-tasking are executing your tasks in an efficient sequence, never start a task until you have everything required to complete the task and never starting a task unless you can complete it.  This, I believe is where you will achieve true efficiencies in your multi-tasking.  A key to achieving these increased efficiencies through theory of constraints is actually something I’ve discussed previously and that is focus.  The three practices I mention are key factors to improving efficiencies of execution and these efficiencies will allow you to multi-task more efficiently.  One difficulty in practicing these principles is completing the tasks when you start them and never starting a task unless you can complete it.  As simple method to overcome this challenge is to redefine the task and break it down into components that can be completed and don’t require completing the larger more complicated activity in one sitting.  For example, you do not need to complete a proposal, or a presentation deck in one sitting and its unreasonable to try to complete it in one sitting.  However you can break down the proposal into components that can be completed quickly.  For instance, you can start with documenting an outline, or better yet use a template that provides the outline format and key deliverables for the proposal.  The idea is to define the component to a task that can quickly be completed before interruptions divert your attention.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


What kind of tricks do you practice when you are multi-tasking?  How does technology impact your ability to mutli-task?  How does the blurring of the professional and personal aspects impact your life?

There may be a time and a place for multi-tasking and I think its fair to say that everyone has a different level of multi-tasking capability.  I have come to realize however that there is quite a difference between multi-tasking and being effective at multi-tasking.  I’ve come to realize that for me personally there are many challenges to overcome to performing effective multi-tasking. I’ve also come to realize that for me personally there are very few occasions where I consider true multi-tasking to be possible.  In fact I have come to realize that multi-tasking in many instances causes a lower quality and longer time to deliver results. 


There is really one key reason that challenges the performance and quality of multi-tasking and that is  a focus, or more precisely a scattered focus.  The challenge is to recognize the tasks that require your focus and to coordinate the time and the place to perform these tasks.  The second challenge to focus and execution it availability of all of the tools and information to perform a task.  I suggest that you should first perform a breakdown or evaluation of the task before starting to determine if you have all of the requirements available at hand to complete the task.  If you don’t have everything required to complete the task, then the first area of activity or focus should be to collect everything required to complete the task. 


Now for me the challenges are all related to understanding the level of focus required and then evaluating how and if I can change the way I execute tasks in order to increase the level of focus I can devote to the task.  Let me give a very simple example of how I’ve tried to evaluate and change the way I perform tasks to increase focus and even the quality of both tasks.  I am involved in many meetings, conference calls and webex meetings which I can take at my desk.  In the past I would use these meetings to read and respond to emails and in addition I would take hand-written notes during the meeting.  After the meeting, if necessary I would transcribe those hand-written notes to an email or electronic document for distribution.  This practice left me not fully focused on the meeting topics and not fully participating.  Obviously this reduced the quality of the meeting because one of the attendees was not fully focused and participating.  Realizing my own personal challenges I decided to change my practice with the goal of increasing my effectiveness and focus.  I changed my method to focus on the meeting at hand and rather than hand-written notes I take notes electronically during the meeting.  This provides two benefits, I focus on the meeting topic, I am able to distribute my notes immediately after completing the meeting, I have electronic notes that are easily searchable in the future and I’ve eliminated the time to transcribe my hand-written notes.


This is a very simple example and I hope it sparks ideas for you to re-evaluate your methods for multi-tasking that will increase the quality and focus of your participation and execution. 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


What kind of tricks do you practice when you are multi-tasking?  How does technology impact your ability to mutli-task?  How does the blurring of the professional and personal aspects impact your life?

I’m sure that most readers run into challenges managing all of the activities they must complete between, personal and professional lives.  I’ve seen many articles and even discussed myself in the past the convergence and the cross-over between personal and professional lives.  This convergence and cross over started with email and through each iteration of improvement in technology the convergence has increased and lines have blurred even more.  With these increases comes an increase in the time and focus required to manage all of these activities.  This is where things get a little complicated and also where people start multi-tasking. 


We have reached the point now where the work day length has elongated into the evening and weekends due to the proliferation of technology and the expanding smartphone capabilities.  I know that I am regularly check email throughout the evening and weekend because it is surprising sometimes the amount of emails that are sent during these ‘off hours’.  I’m not saying that all careers require a 24 x 7 focus on the job, there is however the bleed over that naturally occurs due to availability. 


There is another result of this availability and bleed over between personal and professional lives and that is an increase in multi-tasking. Some multi-tasking is easy, such as watching TV in the evening while you are checking email.  Some multi-tasking is dangerous, such as checking your email or texting while driving.  Most multi-tasking falls somewhere in between the above two examples with various levels of success.  Success however is in the eye of the beholder, I’m sure you’ve all seen the group in the restaurant that are all performing some types of tasks on their smart phones, you really can’t miss them because it is the group that are all looking down at the table and tapping on the smartphone, in a kind of prayer stance. 


I think the multi-tasking has increased productivity to a certain extent, after all you can read and respond to emails while watching TV.  It is important though to understand that the increase in productivity in many ways are the result of the elongated day that is the result of improvements in technology.  This works out well because so many people that are elongating their day in this way truly enjoy their career.  There are other factors that must be taken into account that are results of multi-tasking; a reduction in concentration on any one task, an elongation of the duration to complete one task and finally due to the reduction in concentration you must be careful that the quality of your work does not suffer.


The reduction in concentration on any one task is the most serious negative side effect of multi-tasking and that is something that you must pay attention that it doesn’t get out of control.  I have found that what works best for me is multi-tasking in ‘bursts’, when I’m in a meeting I will concentrate on the meeting and only monitor email for instance and will only respond when there is an important email.  In addition I will use my laptop to take notes in the meeting, while not necessarily multi-tasking, this does allow me to distribute my notes to the interested parties quickly and it also provides a basis to search for information easily in the future.  Multi-tasking can be a productivity enhancer and you must be aware of your limitations in order to provide the improvements and limit the negative factors.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


What kind of tricks do you practice when you are multi-tasking?  How does technology impact your ability to mutli-task?  How does the blurring of the professional and personal aspects impact your life?

What are simple yet important activities?  These are the activities that are not covered in a project plan specifically that should be performed on a regular basis in support of a project or initiative.  These can be regular touch base sessions with individuals, to a regular phone call to discuss new ideas.  These simple activities are most prevalent in collaboration initiatives and partnerships.  These are the types of activities that will not cause immediate failure if you miss one iteration.  For instance, the project will not fail if you miss one iteration of a one-on-one.  However, these are the activities that will add up to a serious impact as the missed iterations pile up.


We all have those tasks that we must perform on a regular basis that are more administrative in nature, you know the ones, they are one-on-one updates, status report updates, project plan updates that you plan to perform on a weekly basis.  There is another identifying factor in these tasks, generally if you miss one or two updates the project or initiative will not unravel.  These are tasks however that must be updated on a regular basis in order to maintain the long term success of the initiative.  These are the tasks that must be performed in order to maintain the momentum and the staff moral.  These are the tasks that have a start date of the beginning of the initiative and in many if not most cases, no end date.  Another good example of these tasks is the regular staff meeting, in fact this is a perfect example. 


The staff meeting is something that is easy to skip for a week and you understand that nothing will happen if you miss a week.  Then something comes up and you miss another week and nothing happens.  This is the point when the task can fall by the wayside and after a while you realize that it’s become an irregular staff meeting that really doesn’t bring value to the initiative or the team.  I guess that another way to look at these tasks is that you may not realize the importance of the task until you haven’t performed it for a while.  These are the tasks that you don’t miss until you realize that the moral has deteriorated to a seriously low level, or until you realize that key housekeeping and maintenance tasks haven’t been performed for a while and now you’ve got a serious recovery issues. 


I’ve found that the best way to maintain and ensure that you execute these tasks is to schedule them on your calendar and another thing to ensure that you execute all of the activities required is to define the agenda in your calendar entry.  I’ve found that what works best for me is to schedule regular time on my staff calendar and my personal calendar to perform the tasks.  This schedule ensures that i don’t overbook my time and skip the tasks.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


Have your started or are you in the midst of an institutional change initiative?  What are the key traits you have identified as required to support the initiative?  Have you contemplated the name or phrase for the person leading your initiative?

Rewarding your collaboration improvement team can present some special challenges due to the make-up of the team being across organizations and most likely geographic locations.  It is important for the leaders across the collaboration partners to be aligned in the reward framework and the rewards themselves.  The improvement team will collapse quickly if they see that some are provided different rewards for different achievements.  There are so many more pieces and parts interacting across this improvement team that must be coordinated, and then you must take into account the cultural differences.  This is truly one endeavor that must be well thought out in order to succeed.  This is also one endeavor that you should start small to provide the opportunity to experiment and test your rewards program. 


An internal rewards program is easy to implement into one company or organization, it requires simply a desire and imagination to start.  The most important aspect of the rewards program is the recognition by peers and also by the leadership of the company or organization.  When you expand that rewards program across partner companies and organizations the importance of recognition does not change, however, the range, or the environment of the recognition changes.  It is important to recognize and take into account this expansion of recognition to account for this expansion of recognition.  Due to the nature of the team, which is made up of members across organizations, companies and locations, the recognition must be coordinated and communicated across the partners to provide a cohesive rewards program. 


The communication and coordination across companies and organizations is critical to the success of the rewards program.  I would argue that the rewards program is critical to the commitment and therefore the success of your collaboration improvement team.  Like most other organizational success factors, this is not rocket science, it is a series of seemingly simple acts and practices that all come together to deliver success to your partnerships.  All that said, these seemingly simple acts can quickly bring problems if you do not pay attention and plan for them.  These seemingly simple acts take on a new level of complexity when they are spread across organizations, companies and geographic locations.  This is why there is an increase in communications required across these barriers.


The communication aspect will increase the level of effort required of the leadership team.  This requires essentially a startup investment from leadership in the form of time to perform the communication and coordinate the programs across the barriers.  This again is another seemingly simple activity that can cause the improvement program to fail.  The point that makes this communication requirement easy to overlook, or more accurately to simply stop performing, is that human nature tends to encourage people to assume that they will communicate, I will call them later, I will send an email at the end of the day, etc.  These are the types of tasks that while they are important to perform on a regular schedule for the long term, they will not cause immediate failure if you miss one or two executions.  These are the types of tasks that I find you must schedule on a recurring appointment to basis as a reminder.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


Have your started or are you in the midst of an institutional change initiative?  What are the key traits you have identified as required to support the initiative?  Have you contemplated the name or phrase for the person leading your initiative?