Interested in personal effectiveness? What about how people work together? These are things that are intricately linked for me - if I can't work effectively, it reflects in my work with others. And if we don't (or can't) work well together, it often comes back to bite me in my individual work.
One seemingly simple aspect of this is the design of the workplace itself - the space, the technology, the tools. Sometimes these simple things get in the way of our being more effective. I came across an article that highlights some of this by Dan Morris at the Process Excellence Network, Most overlooked place for efficiency improvement? It's right in front of you!:
I once heard a statement that the workplace is where you go to use outdated technology that stands in the way of you doing your job the right way. Think about it. Actually that is a sad statement for us who a long time ago built applications to save time and make people’s lives easier.
He goes on to talk about a number of aspects of the current office that has people struggling to get work done: outmoded hardware, software that doesn't work the way it is advertised (or for which people haven't been trained!), poorly designed space, etc, etc, etc. It's easy to see: just look for the tangle of wires and cables that infect many meeting spaces.
Some of the "solution" is easy: go wireless already, more power at point of need. But that is a minor aspect of what the article is really driving at. And that is not so much of what I'm interested in either. Here is Dan Morris' thinking,
Look at the way people work and look at how they could work faster and better. Talk to them about what slows them down and what drives them nuts about their workspace. Ask how you could change things to help them work faster, with less error and to produce a better more consistent product, service, or outcome. Then do what is obvious and simple.
Just as with any other process improvement view of the world, this thinking helps to look at what is blocking successful work. To this, I would add some positive questions: What works well? How can we reinforce the aspects of the workspace that are working?
And if this is process improvement, how do we know that we are improving? How do you know what the work is in many office environments? Are there simple ways to visualize the work - and visualize where the work is flowing / not flowing? Visualize ALL the work, not just the "official" work of the group.
[Photo: "Mess of dusty cables" by Helen Goodchild]