This website covers topics on knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Making it All Work

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=knowledgjoltw-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0143116622&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrI picked up David Allen's Making It All Work and started the first chapter or two last year, but only just now decided to dive in and absorb it.  It's primary goal is to put together what David Allen has learned since Getting Things Done.  Of course, in the process of reading the book, I am seeing many areas where I can do this thing better.  I recommend it for anyone who is interested in doing a better job with personal productivity, particularly if you like the Getting Things Done approach to the world.

The title of the book can be read several ways.  The one I started with emphasizes the "work" part of the title.  Getting Things Done has a process, and I picked up the book with the assumption that it would help round out the GTD process.  It does that, but the other way to read the title is to emphasize the "all," as in making everything in my life flow and work the same way.  This is also the intention of the book.  If I have all my business life organized, but the house is a wreck, that drags on my psyche and makes me less effective everywhere.

The thing I like about the GTD approach is that Allen and others talk about it in what feel like sensible terms to me.  I really like his emphasis that getting organized and setting priorities are very different things, and that many people get confused when they think that they are one in the same.  Just because I have a lot of stuff in my inbox or on my todo lists doesn't mean I have to (or can) do it right now.

I also love the definition of "organized" that David uses:

Being organized simply means that where things are suits what they mean to you. ... The bad (or good) news is that "organized" is a totally self-defined concept, with stable and rigorous definition for each individual.

If you can find it in the context where you need it, and it doesn't pop up when it shouldn't FOR YOU, then you are organized. 

An interesting ah-hah in this book for me was the discussion of next actions and Engaging with my "stuff."  I have often talked about the "Four D's" of dealing with email being Do, Delegate, Defer and Delete.  But on reading the book, during the Action phase, it is really only Three D's: Do, Delegate, Defer.  The "delete" item is a different part of the GTD process, that of processing all the stuff that is sitting for me.  It is during the organize stage that I decide if something is trash or reference or requiring some next action.  Interesting.  (Of course, one often likes to process email in a large batch, when it is easy to blend the control steps together.  Maybe that's not such a good idea?)

Maybe one of the reasons that I think GTD is a "sensible" approach is that  I see all sorts of parallels between GTD and other parts of my life.  The biggest connection is with Theory of Constraints, which is all about achieving flow in organizations.  I am doing a lot of Critical Chain Project Management lately, and there is a big difference between prioritizing at the planning / portfolio level and taking actions based on the decisions made during planning.  Similarly, I've talked about the problem of Too many good ideas, not enough resources, which can affect individuals just as much as it does whole organizations.

And then I made a connection to the practice and discussion of knowledge management, thanks to Brad Hinton's thoughts On whether Knowledge Management matters.  Having just finished Making It All Work, I came across Brad's post and read this:

It seems to me that the KM industry, and I am part of it too, spends a great deal of time talking about what KM can do; what KM could do; what KM might do; and what KM is all about, but actually struggling to get any key decision-maker within an organisation to actually support and promote an organisation-wide approach to KM.

For some reason, this made me think that KM consultants (myself included) have far too many interesting ideas and disjointed projects without helping to make a larger connection to the Vision and Goals of the organization.  Reading Brad's piece now, I don't have the same visceral reaction, but I think it is there somewhere.

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