Working on a team when you’re the only one who does GTD

A GTD’er asked:

I am part of a team with five teammates who are not using GTD. How do I handle the frustration within the lines of communication and organization/productivity?

David replied:

The more anyone around you is out of control, the more you need the GTD

going to have to manage yourself, no matter what.

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  1. I have a similar situation with a similar sized team.

    Firstly, GTD is like quitting smoking, you have to personally want it – I find evangilising to the rest of the team tends to be counterproductive (ego comes into it – ‘he’s trying to organise me is he? I’m a grown-up” etc)

    Personally get round it by keeping Agenda lists (I’ve got a class of contexts just called ‘People’ – and as well as a context named after each person e.g. “Fred” (containing things I need to mention to Fred) I also have a second context, “Fred (waiting for)”,

    That way any time Fred agrees to a commitment I whack it in there, and then when I review I can scan through it and see what Fred has forgotten (as non-GTDers tend to forget commitments of course).

    The one downside of this is that if you keep reminding people of things they’ve forgotten they have no incentive to improve themselves and may even become – ultimately you’re being disciplined for them – they may even become even slacker if you don’t watch it as they have a feeling of security since someone else is always there to ‘remember’ for them – so it needs handling carefully. I still try to point out the benefits of list use where possible, even if it isn’t GTD in name.

  2. Disclaimer ***

    I’ve found, especially in working with volunteer groups (and official agencies, when you’re the volunteer), that the GTD Magic happens within the Horizons of Focus.

    If there is any power-play conflict/misunderstanding at the 20K level between me and the “other members of my team” or my NGO group and the “official first responder group”, then any Next Actions can be doomed.

    So much of what I encounter revolves around terms like trust, permission-based, liability, etc.

    I’ve found that if members of my team can make their good intentions known publicly to the world, and then consistently show up to the other agencies as being viable (runway, 10K), then that’s the first step. This means individuals on our team, and the entire team collectively, have to be really clear on 20K in terms of what we’re asking to be responsible for. What are the boundaries? What’s our game? What’s already in place that we need to be working with?

    The bulk of the effort is figuring out the dotted-line relationship connections at the 30K foot and higher levels. For example, dreaming up events that can be mutually worked on (between our volunteer group/s and official groups like PD, FD, Public Health, Communications Groups, Hospitals, Federal Agencies, just to name a few) while ensuring that the official group is acknowledged for what they do best and ensure nobody is encroaching on their space.

    Another guaranteed formula is, during anytime resistance pops up, is to immediately expand the scope of the ideas at 30K and 40K to become bigger than BOTH of you can imagine. This works amazing wonders.

    Once the HOF have been addressed and agreed on, then people understand why you’re asking for updates, and they’re more likely to perform the next action. You, as the requester, cannot be in-between the requester and the next action.

    *** I’m not a GTD Coach. What I can say is that GTD has offered me the tools and structures to fast-track some really fun volunteer projects within my community and County. I’ve found, 3.5 years into practicing GTD, that our technical tools can easily overlook the Horizons of Focus — HOF is where the magic happens.

    Final Comment — the final piece of magic is to be willing to surrender my ego being attached to what was actually created (possibly from my own first comments in a group). Once a Project has been accomplished, then you must hop back to 40K and work on the next mutually shared vision with all group – this could be a slight expansion of the last project by raising the measurable bar.

  3. I’ve found that by staying on top of others’ using “waiting fors” and agendas, they are more responsive to me. They know they can’t slide things by me. Frequently in a meeting I am me typing notes into Omnifocus and setting due dates, so they know I won’t forget.

  4. I’m involved in academic/commercial research with project teams and, alas, am the only one who uses GTD or anything similar.
    Funny thing is that now people have seen how the Waiting For, Agendas, etc work they defer to what I say is scheduled or was agreed to be actioned, almost by default.
    It’s a bit like the old saying “Get the reputation as an early riser and sleep til noon” except its more, “Get the reputation as the one who is on top of their work, and get away with the mistakes and mishaps we all make”.

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