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"Managing" Use of GTD by Staff

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  • "Managing" Use of GTD by Staff

    Before I even finished reading GTD I ordered books for the entire office. I sent out an email to everyone inviting them to read the book with me. Within 10 minutes of sending the email, three people had come into my office to pick-up a book. By the end of the day, almost everyone had one (including our lawyer). The people who have not asked for the book are those who are already productive in jobs that have well defined “edges."

    The entire office is deeply involved in planning a major event in April, but following that, we have said that we’ll be happy to take each member of the staff off duty for two days whenever they are ready to begin implementation. Also, anyone who reads the book will receive their own p-touch labeler. We keep a well stocked supply closet, but we’re still going to give everyone attempting to implement GTD some office supply “mad money” to spend on tools

    Using GTD is optional and I’m trying hard not to create even indirect pressure on anyone to read the book or adopt the ideas and practices. My motivation has been, primarily, that I’d like to have people around to talk to about implementing GTD, people who understand my work flow challenges and environment. I think I’m prepared to see people simply adopting tricks and tips but not commit to the entire system, and remain encouraging. People seem genuinely excited and we are planning a GTD lunch in May where we can all talk about how implementation is going for each of us, ask for help, or pass along tips. I also have all the various CD’s available for our auditory learners.

    So, enough front-loading. I’m wondering if anyone has experience, from a managers perspective, in working with staff who are trying to implement GTD (and it is “working with staff” since I am not presenting this to them as someone who has been using it successfully, but as someone who feels like it’s been awhile since I had any control over my work flow and needs to grow as an executive) If so, are their mistakes I can avoid or strategies that have succeeded for others? Maybe having made the books available is enough and I should just sort of back off and let whatever might happen happen. Maybe this has been discussed and I just need to be pointed to a thread, but I wasn’t sure what topic to search. Any insight is much appreciated.

    -Mike

  • #2
    Re: "Managing" Use of GTD by Staff

    Originally posted by Mike Ferguson

    I’m wondering if anyone has experience, from a managers perspective, in working with staff who are trying to implement GTD (and it is “working with staff” since I am not presenting this to them as someone who has been using it successfully, but as someone who feels like it’s been awhile since I had any control over my work flow and needs to grow as an executive)
    -Mike
    I am careful when I approach this topic in seminars. Moreover, I encourage people to separate the meanings they have given to “organization” and “productivity."

    I have worked with people who have neat desks but their mind is full to rim, distracting them out of control. This is total chaos. Some people have piles all around them…at least have crude placeholders that can help them focus on what to do.

    Although these are definitely ways to manage your workflow, they are not best practices. We need to download everything, make front-end action decisions, and keep the results nicely sorted in workable categories to overview.

    However, what you describe seems to be an attachment that they “do it right.” The only indicator of whether what they do works or not will show up on the back end. That is, does your team keep, manage, and renegotiate agreements effectively? It seems the issue here is not someone's system (which you can never legislate), but what they aren't doing or delivering that they've agreed to do. You CAN hold people accountable to the process. Anything else is much too subjective as a criterion for evaluating performance, and wouldn't make a dent in changing their behavior anyway.

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    • #3
      Thanks Jason. Your post led me to look you up in Coaches Corner and that led me to your article on "Modeling..." more very helpful insights.

      -Mike

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      • #4
        Teams and GTD

        I believe the GTD methods we teach seldom are successfully mandated through entire cultures. There are some people who just do not seem to get it [or want to get it] while others take to it like a duck to water. Life is negotiation. What is important? What is not so important? These questions will bring up the topics to discuss with the team. You can get used to or at least accept, that people will manage their agreements one way or the other. The good news about Getting Things Done is that it gives people “common vocabulary.”

        What’s the next action?

        What’s the successful outcome?

        I don't have any suggestions... other than to acknowledge to each other what the real priorities are, that there are minor things that drive you both nuts, and based upon your willingness to work with it, can you define and accept compromises. Thinking it should be different and not doing anything to make it so is what'll stress you out...

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        • #5
          Jason,

          That was a shockingly wonderful set of replies. It was not at all what I would have expected you to say but it contains a lot of wisdom.

          Of course you've had the experience I lack of implementing gtd again and again and again with lots of different people in lots of different industries.

          I hate to say it, but what I take from your posts in this thread is what I truly believe: gtd is not for everyone. It takes a certain kind of person to do all the up-front work that GTD requires to get the payoff at the back end.

          Another confession: I didn't like Ready for Anything when I first got it. But I like it more and more as I reread it.

          As a US consumer I expect to be told how product X will solve all my problems. The GTD book holds out the vision of being on top of everything. It's a good vision. But what I like about Ready for Anything is that it constantly reminds me that gtd (lower-case, the method, not the book) is not for the faint of heart. It is not easy. Ready for Anything can be a soothing balm because it lets me know that maintaining the rigor and discipline of the gtd method is tough.

          The point is that leading an unproductive life is also tough. Maybe tougher.

          I think it takes a certain kind of person to take to GTD. There is an aesthetic to the system that not all can appreciate.

          But I think you are spot on, Jason, when you say that you can transform the focus of the organization to ask what is the next action, what is the successful outcome.

          So thanks again, Jason, for pointing out what is really important about gtd. Not everyone is ready for separate next action lists for distinct contexts. But they can all be encouraged to focus on actions and outcomes.

          moises

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          • #6
            My own learning with this stuff...

            Originally posted by moises
            So thanks again, Jason, for pointing out what is really important about gtd. Not everyone is ready for separate next action lists for distinct contexts. But they can all be encouraged to focus on actions and outcomes.

            Hello,

            Thank you for the compliment.

            I just finished one of Dee Hock's books, and wow, was I impressed. I found out that what created VISA (yes, credit card VISA) was a specific directive:

            What would be the world's premier system for the exchange of value?

            That was quite the successful outcome. Next action after next action, and
            Visa International Services Association was born...

            Jason

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            • #7
              moises wrote: I hate to say it, but what I take from your posts in this thread is what I truly believe: gtd is not for everyone. It takes a certain kind of person to do all the up-front work that GTD requires to get the payoff at the back end.

              I think that GtD can be for everyone. Orthodox systemization might not be for everyone but.......

              moises wrote: I think it takes a certain kind of person to take to GTD. There is an aesthetic to the system that not all can appreciate.

              ......it is the aesthetic of the thoughtful approach (Process and Review) that makes GtD universally applicable - even to the divergent thinkers who rebel against confining systems. This is where I believe that DA distinguishes himself by making GtD relevant to the 40-50% of us who are not primarily convergent. The ritual of the simple GtD questions and using the language of GtD have universal application. The flexibility of where and how to write and the fact that DA is not selling an actual planner system product to which his advice is tailored help the divergent user to preserve hir own creativity in organizing the results of the thinking. (Contexts are useful but not manadatory.)

              Andrew

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              • #8
                Instilling GTD into your company's culture

                What a great thread this is! It so typifies the best things about online community when it works right: respect for other's opinion, meaningful discourse, and mutual enlightenment.

                At my company, everyone is welcomed to attend one of David's seminars - it's a basic benefit extended to all. When I went almost two years ago with a group of my peers, it was a wonderfully transforming experience in a number of dimensions - closer personal ties, shared vocabulary, better understanding of each other's roles and responsibilities, and a recognition that we were really fortunate to work at a company that placed such a high value on our personal development.

                So, has everyone at my company adopted GTD and to the same degree? No, of course not. And of those that have, no two implementations are quite the same which, I think, speaks to one of the earlier posts in this thread about the adaptability of the GTD methodology.

                A few of us have drunk deeply of the "David Allen Kool-Aid" and have revised virutally every facet of how we collect, organize, and act. Others have taken some of the best practices and feel OK with that level of change and improvement. Our common vocabulary has evolved to include daily references to next actions, making agreements with ourselves (and others), mind like water, etc.

                I agree with the comment above that you can't mandate this stuff. But you can create an environment that is supportive of the GTD system and encourages adoption, discussion, and refinement. As an example, we have an annual Purge Day the first week of the new year during which everyone is enouraged to take a full day to perform a purge of analog and digital "stuff", get the files re-organized and freshly labeled, etc. It's a great way to get the new year off to the right start.

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                • #9
                  In my experience, employees are always going find their "own" ways of doing things...regardless of any sort "formal" policies or procedures you have in place.

                  My solution? Give your employees the tools (like GTD) and whatever training/support they may need to implement them.

                  Demand that they consistently deliver at least the quality and quantify of results that someone using the tools is capable of.

                  If they do that, I don't care if they use a myna bird and smoke signals instead a palm pilot and email.

                  If they don't deliver, then get rid of them ASAP.

                  Craig

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                  • #10
                    Myna bird and smoke signals? I truly laughed out loud. If I did that, my co-workers would think that my office was on fire. (I'm still processing that inbasket, so there's a big stack of paper on my desk.)

                    Carolyn

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                    • #11
                      Re: Instilling GTD into your company's culture

                      Originally posted by CosmoGTD
                      ok, that's funny.

                      How about...
                      David Allen's GTD is a Cool-Aid to Productivity?

                      Coz
                      Originally posted by mochant
                      A few of us have drunk deeply of the "David Allen Kool-Aid"
                      Cosmo:

                      I had the good fortune to share that with David after the seminar I took in Dallas. He seemed to like it as well.

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                      • #12
                        Posts have been very helpful. Jason’s essay on modeling (in Coaches Corner) is very good. I aspire to be a "high-risk high-support" manager (i.e. give my staff a lot of freedom AND be there to support them as they use it) who remains focused on outcomes, but I can see that in my enthusiasm for GTD I was moving away from this. We have a strong strategic plan in place, from mission through vision, strategies, initiatives, milestones, and action steps. Outcomes and accountability are clear and I think I need to re-emphasize with my staff that taking actions and meeting milestones remains my focus, not whether they used a tickler file to do it. Even small incentives, like the p-touch and office supply shopping spree, will be adjusted to correspond to outcomes, not the tools they used.

                        -Mike

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                        • #13
                          Managing large outcomes, next actions, and accountability

                          We have a strong strategic plan in place, from mission through vision, strategies, initiatives, milestones, and action steps.
                          In Washington DC last week, I had lunch with a senior research analyst who was talking about 5-year goals and next actions.

                          I'm curious about experiences in managing the "day-to-day" with the big picture in mind. What great "stories from the trenches" do you have?

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                          • #14
                            Re: Managing large outcomes, next actions, and accountabilit

                            Originally posted by Jason Womack
                            In Washington DC last week, I had lunch with a senior research analyst who was talking about 5-year goals and next actions.

                            I'm curious about experiences in managing the "day-to-day" with the big picture in mind.
                            Well, since I started GTD, I've been making real progress on my goal to go to vet school, which is a 5-year project at this point. The big help is in being able to focus on just the current projects, and plan for upcoming semesters. If I tried to look at the big picture without having the ability to split it into small do-able chunks, I'd panic. (I have to sell the house... lease out the horses... find some way to get in a thousand hours of vet assist... aieeeee!)

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