Monday, February 8, 2016

People Process Technology, The Triple Play

I often think about how to create an environment where the velocity can increase for how things get done.  I used to think technology was the main answer, just put in new tools, expect people to use them, and more stuff will get done.  I learned that adding technology on its own will often cause velocity to slow.  Most people need help seeing their way through the learning curve new technology brings.  So if adding technology isn't the answer, I thought 'what about better processes'.  If we could just design better ways of working, we will get more stuff done.  Well, this outcome really depends on who the people are and what their mindset is.  If people are not engaged in their work, see it as 'just a job', are not connected to the organization mission, great process won't really make a difference either.  Okay, so that just leaves the third element, people.

Over my career, I have learned a lot about myself and about the diversity of people and how they think.  I used to get frustrated when I would eloquently communicate direction to my team and some would be enthused, some ambivalent, and others resistant.  I would think to myself 'what is wrong with these people, don't they get it?'.  Well, I've learned that as a leader or communicator, it is my job to figure out and understand people and how to tailor my messaging to better fit each type of person.  In some cases this will require 1:1 communication fit for a person.

I wrote previously about how I was working to better understand my team and help them understand each other.  In December last year my whole team and I responded to a profile survey created to produce a personal profile report on each of us.  It was very interesting to see how everyone was reacting to their reports.  Some would say how it described them to the letter, others argued that it was no where near accurate - ah but they asked their spouses or kids and they confirmed it.  In early January we had a facilitator come in and take us through the material to help us understand how it works and how we can use it for more effective communication and relationships.  We will bring her back for three more sessions over the next year to help us learn how to read people and tailor our ways of working with each other to a better result.  My goal in this is for people to appreciate and leverage their differences for better communication.

Knowing your people, investing in and supporting them, spending time with them, coaching and mentoring them, are all important steps.  With a large team it may be difficult to get to know everyone personally but by mentoring your direct reports to know their direct reports and so on, you can get a pretty good picture of your overall team.  From that you / your leadership team can design teams with optimal balance to set them up for better success.  You can use your limited resources wisely and support people where they need it most.  Essentially, by knowing your people better, you can be more strategic in how you help them grow and thus get more stuff done.

It's not all just about people however.  Your people may be your greatest asset but you can amplify their success with great process and fit for purpose technology (tools).  You can design processes that accommodate different working, thinking, and communicating styles.  When you add technology to their toolkit, make sure to invest in training them how to use it effectively.  Our front line support technicians were given Mac computers and expected to just learn them to they can support their customers.  You can probably guess how well that worked for most.  Not everyone has a natural tendency to self-learn.  Once we started training them properly on the tools AND the technical processes, their ability to get stuff done and support their customers with their new tools was improved dramatically.  The other interesting fact is that when you provide good tools and design and teach good processes, your people feel more confident and capable and they, wait for it... get more stuff done.  They also feel better about themselves which can improve team work, morale, etc. and help people, get more stuff done.  A positive feedback loop emerges.

None of these ideas are rocket science but sometimes we just need to be reminded that the three components of people, process, and technology are together a winning formula and separately you need to invest strategically for an optimal outcome.