The Key to Implementing GTD Across our/your Company.

Date: Friday, August 15, 2008 by GTD Times Staff

“Is it even possible to implement GTD across the Company?” That was the question that was plaguing me and Ali.  Even if we get tools for everyone and teach them all the basics, it’s still very likely that most employees will stick to their old ways. Change is hard from within an organization.  In spite of our efforts it is possible and maybe even likely that our people won’t crank widgets as we expect them to.

Considering these facts the question “should we then go ahead and invest so much time and energy into the training?” is one to consider seriously.  On the other hand if we don’t pursue a company wide GTD implementation what are our alternatives?  Not to teach GTD and accept the current standard of performance & accountability hardly seemed like a viable choice so we decided that we might as well give it our best shot and keep our expectations low.

Here’s what we did:

First we got  everybody their GTD Gear (covered in earlier posts of Rolling out GTD @ Vakil Housing series).  Then we kick started the Training.  The key to our methodology  has been the regularity and persistence with which we’ve gone about “the Vakil Housing Weekly GTD Training Meet”.  This is  the secret-sauce we found for implementing GTD at our office.

Day: We had set upon a Day for our weekly meeting, say every Friday
Time: 9:00 Am. We wanted to get started first thing every morning.
Duration: 1 hr. Many times it would stretch to an Hour and a Half.
We’ve been dong this for almost two years so to date we have conducted more than 100 hours of Weekly GTD Training at our office.

The General structure of the meeting is:
– Recap of what was learned last week.
– Take Any David Allen Podcast Interview, Article or Audio session from GTD Connect.
– Watch, Listen to or Read out loud the material while I would simultaneously draw a mind map of what is being read on the whiteboard, while explaining further what David covered.
– Pausing the presentation occasionally and going over any heavy concept that David touched upon.
– Once the interview/podcast is over, we would run through the mind map recapping what was covered. Typically I’d share my personal implementation examples, with my “aha” moments during the presentation                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                -Asking if anybody had “aha” moments of their own to share.
– Possibly give everybody an exercise to work upon and get back with feedback next week.

The topics that we covered:
– Obviously, the first course was an intro to GTD. We covered the concept that we are most effective when we are relaxed, but that we can’t be relaxed when we have a million other things pulling and pushing us. In this session we played the David Allen Video on the home page of the David Allen Company.

– In the second session we distributed the various tools (covered in earlier posts) and assisted everybody in setting those up.

– We did sessions where we told everybody to grab whatever papers are lying at their desks or in their drawers and get them all to the conference room where we proceeded to do a live joint processing session with the actual stuff that they have to deal with.

– We had a session on clearing emails from people’s inboxes. The session included sitting with one volunteer and taking 30 minutes or so to clear his email inbox while others watched to see how it was done.

– We had sessions on the Three Fold Nature of Work and the Limiting Criteria, for which we used the relevant articles on the website.

– We once did a GTD-Quiz. Where we made teams to whom I asked questions on the podcast that was just played and we distributed sleek leather bound little pocket calendar diaries as prizes.

– After we felt our employees had truly ingrained the core concepts we did individual sessions on the Natural Planning Model and Horizons of Focus.

– In addition to the very specific GTD sessions we had many other sessions that were just general, just as many of David Allen’s interviews are. We just listen to them and we each pick out the nuggets that mean the most to us.

If you are a senior Manager within your organization and you’ve strictly implemented GTD for yourself but are having difficulty convincing others to adopt it, I would highly recommend trying out the weekly meeting the way we’ve done it as explained above. Keep your expectations low. Having your whole organization/department implement GTD is a big change and as every experienced manager knows most change only happens in small doses.

After more than 100 hours of GTD Training are we all following GTD 100% today? No, we’re not. But we’re certainly more GTD-compliant than before.  We are still working on it too. That alone made the whole process worth it. Persistence always pays. Remember, A big shot was once a little shot, who kept shooting.

4 Responses to “The Key to Implementing GTD Across our/your Company.”

  1. Simon Lee says:

    I work in a bank and am starting to use GTD for myself. When I tell others about it they say they all have their own systems and not interested to learn something new.

  2. Hi Simon,

    I so understand what you mean. Being the Director of a company it’s difficult implementing GTD across my company. For those who don’t directly report to you, they’re certainly much more tougher to convert.

    In those scenarios what I’ve seen work best is that you can begin to preach to those who begin to show interest first, even if it’s mild interest. So for eg. when your colleagues begin to see the change in you, they realise that you indeed get so much more done and you’re always totally relaxed and chill, that’s when the training can begin.

    And I’ve experienced that it’s not too long before people do start noticing the difference. Specially when you keep your Waiting For list pristine and constantly followup on each and every task that others have agreed to do. It’s a matter of time that the curious come up and say, “Hey, how ever do you manage to keep track of every little thing so easily?”

    Ofcourse if you have people who directly report to you, then it becomes easier, because then you can mandate that they use the system. Atleast give it a shot for a few weeks before they give the verdict that what they’re currently doing is better.

  3. Andrew Mason says:

    Good article,

    I am great GTD lover and I have tried to instill GTD on people within my business. The art of becoming more productive is very different from making other people productive.

    Some people just get it, and others are instantly dismissive of anything that looks like personal development.

    However, I will keep trying!

  4. Arif Vakil says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks, on your comments on the article. Glad you liked it.

    You took the words right out of my mouth, when you said that the “art of making others productive is entirely different.” But in my experience just like GTD, it’s an art, which one gets better at as one invests more time and energy at.

    We’ve spent REALLY significant time in teaching GTD to everyone around us. Sometimes when I walk office, I see empty inboxes and people busy entering their next actions in their relevant contexts it gives me a really warm and fuzzy feeling inside. However there are days that it’s just the opposite. Yesterday was one such day, and I was really wondering was the time & energy invested worthwhile. It’s while I was brooding on this, that a fellow colleague walked up to me and said, “Excuse me Arif, can you just help me out here, I’ve got a small GTD query.” Her question was relatively simple and was easily answered. But her simple act of being concerned about her productive system that she was keen on enhancing it, made my day.

    So, the moral of the story is that it does pay to teach GTD, even though may times it’s not really evident.

    But the truth is if you’re like me, whether it’s beneficial or not, we’re such die-hard GTD fans, that we can’t help but preach it.

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