A Magic Tool to help someone get more control over their workload?

When I left a client’s site recently the person I’d spent most of the time working with asked whether it would be OK to call me if they ran into any difficulties when carrying out the action plan we’d drawn up. He wasn’t the sort of person who would abuse the situation, so I said yes. “I’m sure you must have lots of other tools that would be really helpful,” he added.

Tools? I’d given him a lot of coaching to help him realise that he could gain more control over his day-to-day workload. I thought of that as method or approach. It was really interesting to hear him refer to that guidance as a “tool”. It was so very rewarding to come away knowing that not only had I helped him construct an action plan, I’d also helped him build his capability and confidence to execute it.

Too Busy to plan
I had been asked to do an assessment of a particular aspect of the company’s operation and he was the person responsible for addressing any technical or process gaps. He already had a lot of points circling around in his head but it seemed that he was frequently distracted by having to respond to customer calls and dealing with other tasks around the office. He was busy helping everybody else and hadn’t put any time aside to help himself.

He wasn’t sold on the idea of having a plan – chiefly because he’d not been allowed to stick to a plan in the past. (Who’s preventing him from sticking to the plan? I thought. Most probably himself). I persuaded him to give it a go because if things were written down he wouldn’t have to carry all that stuff around in his head. That alone might enable him to get clearer sight of what needed to be done.

I helped him work through things methodically, identifying the issues and noting them down. Each item was given a H/M/L priority and a man-days effort estimate. (Yes, most of those were underestimates and had to be challenged).

For the first time he could see how much work was involved. He could see how long it would take to complete if he dedicated half his time to this project work.

It wasn’t rocket science, but that relatively simple planning approach was the tool that he found so helpful.

Of course, he has the challenge of managing the rest of his responsibilities into the other half of his time – but now he has a “tool” to help him make sense of those demands.

The end result
If he takes that coaching on board he will become a more productive employee all round.

That’s good news for him because it will make his life more manageable at work.

It’s good news for his company because they will get the recurring benefit of that increased productivity year on year.

It would be good news for me if I could factor that into the business case for doing the work in the first place.

That said, I get that very pleasing feeling that my experience has made someone’s life better.

Brian Lancaster is a Director of BLMS Consulting