Stop the Frustration! How to Balance Delivery and Sanity in the Workplace!

04 May
Everything in your life is a reflection of a c...

(Photo credit: deeplifequotes)

What do you do when your boss needs information right now, and it needs to be accurate… and look great in a presentation?  In short, they want perfection on the spot!

How do you balance all these demands?

And as a leader, how do you set reasonable expectations on whatever products your people produce in order to achieve a balance between excellence and speed?

How about using the “2 out of 3” rule?!

The Theory

Look at these three categories related to work:

  1. Speed
  2. Appearance
  3. Accuracy

In everyday speak, we can say, “Fast, Pretty, and Accurate.”  While they are fairly self-explanatory, there are a few nuances worth explaining.

Speed – How fast something is needed is sometimes a lack of proper planning.  While we can learn to produce quickly, we should also keep an eye open for improved processes or advanced warning to alleviate the need for speed the next time around.  Sometimes it can’t be helped… but sometimes it can!

Appearance – No doubt, everyone wants a product to look good… it reflects on the people and the organization.  But rather than have each individual spend hours lining up slides, letterhead, and various other aesthetics, why not do these two things:

  • Develop templates that any knuckle-dragging Neanderthal can fill in (and have it look good!).
  • Have someone in the organization who is gifted at making the high end look… well… high end.  But use them sparingly… only when high end is a must!

Accuracy – No one wants to spread false information (unless you’re a spy!).  Often times the problems with accuracy come because of the required speed (e.g., don’t have time to research).  But these two things can improve accuracy:

  • Update routinely requested information on a recurring basis.  For example, if you have a certain report that gets regular air time, assign someone to update that report every two weeks (or one week, etc).  That way, your stock information is up-to-date and accurate… without the stress!
  • Have someone in the organization who is a gifted (and speedy) researcher.  Again, save them for the truly important to prevent scattering their talents too thin!

The Practice

Employing this theory is part expectation, part negotiation.  It works this way:

“You can have any two of these three: Fast, Pretty, Accurate! Which two do you want?”

Let the boss choose which two, and off you go!

Want it fast and pretty?  Don’t count on high accuracy.  This will be “stock” accuracy, or will require your super-researcher.  So if accuracy is important, you have to look at other options:

Want it fast and accurate?  Don’t count on pretty.  This will be “template” pretty: adequate, but not dazzling.  (That is, if you made the template!).

Want it pretty and accurate?  Don’t count on fast.  If these two are musts, you have to establish some long lead times by planning ahead.

Now you’re getting the idea!

As a leader, this “2 out of 3” rule will help you frame what’s truly important, while at the same time giving your team reasonable expectations.  You can choose between these options based on whatever best fits the circumstance.

The end result?

  • The boss provides focused guidance and priorities
  • The team feels that there are reasonable expectations
  • Overall, there is lower stress, better performance, and a feeling of empowerment and control.

So… give it your best shot… or better said, give it your best two out of three and let me know how it goes!

Where do agree/disagree?  What techniques would you add to reduce stress and increase performance while still delivering quality product?

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Posted by on May 4, 2013 in Leadership


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