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Category Archives: Delivering Quality

Perfectionist at work – good or bad thing?

Traditionally, perfectionism is given positive connotations, and rightly so – there are many good qualities associated with the perfectionist. However, in a workplace environment, it may not be the most coveted attribute among co-workers for a few reasons. So, is being a perfectionist a good or a bad thing?

The truth is, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. Perfectionism means you have extremely high standards, you work hard and you usually have a vision of what you want and you know when you have reached it.

But the thing is, the standards the perfectionist strives for are their standards, personal to them and therefore they might not share the same vision flawlessness as their colleagues. This is where friction can arise between colleagues and discontent within the individual.

Not only that, not settling until the task is done to standard can cause work to be completed after deadlines, the knock-on effects of which can be far reaching. Essentially, the perfectionist loses sight of what’s really important – getting the task done on time and in full. 

If you find yourself falling into the perfectionist trap, even if only occasionally, then consider the following:

  • Understand that good enough is enough. If you find yourself going over the same piece of work time and again looking for ways to tweak it on the off chance you can make it even better – stop. Sure, review your work but when you think it’s 80 to 90 percent good enough, move on.
  • Accept that making mistakes are normal. They are a standard part of the learning process and that as long as you do just that – learn from them – then there’s no problem. The reality is that reaching 100 per cent perfection is probably impossible so don’t fret about the possible consequences of making an error and don’t concern yourself with the notion that you will be judged if your work isn’t absolute perfection.
  • Consider your priorities. What impact will improving a particular piece of work have? I mean, what will it actually do? What is its value? If you can’t answer these questions with valid reasons then you need to move on to the next task because it may not be worth your while continuing. Don’t let low priority, more trivial things, consume your valuable time, effort and skills when you could be applying all three to something that genuinely requires it.

Perfectionism can stem from anxiety possibly caused by stress at work or perhaps a poor work/life balance. For more information on these topics and to see how we can help you and/or your team improve performance, visit our website by clicking here or to find out about our free Leadership & Management seminars, click here.

 

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How to overcome procrastination

Most people are guilty of procrastination at work for one of a variety of reasons:

  • The task is difficult or unpleasant so you either don’t want to or don’t know how to do it
  • The task is a small one, it won’t take long and can wait until later
  • The task is huge, it’s difficult to know where to begin
  • The task is low priority, you will do it when you’ve finished more urgent things
  • If you delay the task, it might not need doing at all
  • You don’t want to run out of work; you might look expendable.
  • You do your best work under pressure so let’s wait for the task to become a more urgent matter

To deal with procrastination, focus on the result, not on the process. Think about how satisfying it will be to get that monkey off your back and do this any time you start to feel unmotivated or negative about the task.

If you are tempted to leave the task thinking if you ignore it for long enough it will go away then you are taking a risk. It could suddenly become something that needs top priority and you end up having to start from scratch to get it done quickly – meaning the quality suffers. 

Try the following recommended techniques for overcoming procrastination:

  • Tackle the job you least want to do first thing when you get to work. You will experience a great sense of achievement and the day can only get better after that.
  • If you’re not sure how to do the task, analyse exactly what information you need and where to get it. Seek help now rather than on deadline day when no one is around.
  • The task may be simple but sometimes the unexpected happens and you have no contingency time left. Schedule a start time for the task on your ‘to do’ list and get it done.
  • Break down large tasks into manageable chunks; scheduling each with both a start time and finish time, and tick them off on completion.
  • You may believe you do your best work under pressure, but this attitude can convey an arrogant disregard for others whose input or participation is needed. Set a new earlier, deadline to allow for any unavoidable delays.
  • Promise yourself a reward on completion of the task. This works well if you are a ‘towards’ person – someone who is motivated by moving towards the attainment of targets and goals. This is also known as a pleasure motivator.
  • You may, however, be an ‘away from’ person, in which case, the painful consequences of not completing the task may be so dire that they give you a real kick-start to get it done. To activate this kind of motivator, imagine the worst consequences of not doing the task, and then multiply the seriousness of these consequences 100-fold. Not surprisingly, this is known as a pain motivator.
  • Finally, you could set yourself a challenge. Decide how long you are prepared to work on this task for and then use a digital timer to count down the minutes until it alerts you with a ‘ping’ that your allocated time is up. This works particularly well with mundane tasks such as filing or a housekeeping activity on your PC. You will find yourself competing against the clock to see how much you can achieve before the time goes.

There is an unwritten law around the concept that work expands to fill the time available. However, if you do complete all your workload, this leaves you time to be proactive and seek new opportunities that could enhance your career and professional standing.

Post courtesy of People Alchemy – for access to the Alchemy for Managers online resource visit http://www.peoplealchemy.co.uk/catalyst

 

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A business has to deliver quality – but what does this mean? Part 2

Organisations are in the business of delivering quality and in this post we aim to look at what this means in practical terms.

In Part 1 we looked at we looked at how your business can deliver quality through things like preparation, encouraging a customer focus and considering competitors. Here in Part 2 we begin by looking at…

Assessing current performance 

You need specific data. This will help you decide what to concentrate on, and estimate the work involved. You may be able to get it from an existing management information system, or you might need to do some fresh analysis.

For example, you might want to reflect on the things you think you are especially good at (or not), and the effect of external influences on how you might address those characteristics. A useful technique for doing this is SWOT analysis, although there are others, such as the RADAR® self-assessment tool, which is used within the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) Business Excellence Model.

This process should give you valuable insights, but it will be an internal perspective. Surveying customers, suppliers and employees will all add fresh dimensions to your view – provided you ask questions that matter to the organisation and prepare the ground so people believe you really want to know the answers.

If you intend to use corporate statistics, look under them to check they tell you what you think they do, and that what they measure matters. 

Decide which aspects of your business to improve

What you tackle first will depend on your business priorities, your position in the company, and the time and resources available.

Find some areas for improvement that people will notice. Some that will capture the imagination of people in different levels and functions of the organisation. Some that will signal change to customers and/or suppliers.

People sometimes say the first thing to tackle is those few processes at which you really must excel. This is as true of a small team as it is of the whole company. You may know them as Critical (or Key) Success Factors (or even Mission Critical Factors). The idea is that these are vital to achieving your business aims and objectives, so tackling them will make the greatest difference to your business results. That’s true, but you might like buy in some expertise you can trust, or to get some practice first.

Tackling a cross-section of issues with high, medium and low priority, including some easy targets, will develop and maintain vital motivation while enabling you to attend to the issues that matter to the company’s results.

Plan your action

You might be working within your own area. You might have been offered responsibility for some or all aspects of quality improvement across part or the whole organisation. It doesn’t matter. Planning and (if you can) delegating the work will make life a lot easier. It’s much like any project.

If there are several projects going on, someone should coordinate work. Whether it should be you or someone else depends on circumstances. Only you can decide that.

If you’re in charge of a programme or project of any size, you’ll need to allocate resources. Even if you’re going to do it all yourself, you’ll need to know what resources are available and what you are responsible for. It is normal to make sure people are clear about their responsibilities, what they have to deliver by when and that they have the skills and motivation to do so. Check out how things are going at sensible intervals, and offer your encouragement and support or get help, or whatever is needed, when appropriate.

It makes sense to include project tasks in job descriptions, particularly if people are working on the tasks part-time. You should also incorporate work on the project into the normal performance management appraisal and accountability system.

It makes sense to identify (and take steps to minimise) the risks, and make contingency plans in case things do not go as expected. This basically involves imagining what could go wrong with each task, assessing which are the most likely or potentially calamitous setbacks, and thinking up alternative ways of reducing the risk or dealing with the fall-out if it happens. The advantage is having time to propose sane solutions when you are not under pressure because it has all gone horribly wrong.

All interested parties should regularly be told what’s happening. It is important to establish at the outset what the key stages are at which to check in with the team, and when and how to report progress and obstacles to senior management.

Remember it should be a two-way conversation though, not a broadcast. If you don’t attend to this, rumour will take over. Unless you control any tendency to broadcast, you might find conflicting or negative messages circulating, instead of positive ones. Then you will get bogged down in dealing with whinges, instead of getting on with the job.

Training may be needed, for you or your colleagues. It’s helpful to consider the cost of external trainers and the time ‘off-job’ of trainees. For example, it may suit your circumstances to pay for external training for a small core of employees, who would then be expected to train/coach their colleagues.

Some will just need to understand the concept. Others may need technical skills, if they are likely to use ‘quality techniques’ in their work. Some say that everyone should know about the techniques. It can send helpful messages about openness and common purpose if delegates on a course come from various levels in the company.

Post courtesy of People Alchemy

Catalyst Business Dynamics deliver have a reputation for delivering courses that develop many of soft skills mentioned here. For information on what we offer or to book a place on one of our FREE interactive workshops check out our website: http://www.cbduk.biz/Seminars.asp

 

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A business has to deliver quality – but what does this mean? Part 1

You will have heard at people say that business is all about delivering quality. But what does “delivering quality” actually mean? How can you play your part in that and where do you even begin?

Here are some tips and insights to help you understand more about delivering quality within your organisation:

Prepare

You may have some formal responsibility for quality improvement. On the other hand, it may be going on around you. Either way, especially if you have some managerial or supervisory role, you can influence the developments more effectively if you prepare yourself and others around you. In quality speak, become a Quality Champion.

The point is not only to increase your own influence, but to positively affect people’s attitudes. This is because, if techniques are the vehicle of improvement, people’s attitudes are the fuel. Only once you have fuelled the corporate atmosphere with motivation and involvement is it time to redesign the systems and perhaps the organisational structure.

Sell the idea within your work area

Whatever your role in the organisation, it will be an uphill struggle if your colleagues are pulling in opposite directions. So it makes sense to start with internal communications and meetings. Having continuing conversation with (rather than broadcasting to) employees and other interested parties is a key part of preparing the ground. The idea is to engage everyone’s creativity and commitment, without which any attempt at quality improvement is, at best, likely to turn into a box-ticking exercise.

Overcome resistance 

You may notice this in colleagues or in yourself. People may have natural anxieties. Their fears may be about having to change roles and learn new skills, or even about actually losing their jobs. For example, will it undermine your/their own position if you encourage more junior staff to take on more responsibility? Their fears will be real to them, whether or not they have any foundation. Either way, it’s important to talk about these things openly. Then you can deal with the issues, and they will not remain hidden and festering.

Talk to people about what is happening. Become informed about the things you don’t know. Share what you do know with colleagues. If you have responsibility for launching a quality initiative, be aware that grand launches can be counter-productive. Some places have tried way-out fun razzamatazz launches with great success, while others have tried the same to the horror of their employees. You can start the ball rolling with some low-key techniques.

Become a role model

Your personal behaviour and working style will influence everyone around you. Even if your company has no quality aspirations, you can improve results just by the way you act. If you have any formal responsibility for quality, you will find progress much easier if people trust you. Good ways of influencing others in this respect are to

  • Walk the talk
  • Focus on results and what enables them to be achieved
  • Minimise the bureaucracy/documentation (making it more flexible, where sensible)
  • Encourage everyone to
    • think about the procedures and how they might be improved
    • be open about things that ‘went wrong’
    • take responsibility for their actions
  • Recognise people’s contributions, whether through formal appraisal and reward, employee of the month schemes or a simple word of acknowledgement.

Whatever suits your context, do it, and keep doing it.

Encourage a customer focus

Help your colleagues to raise their awareness of the needs of whoever uses the result of their work, and to seek to meet those needs. It’s often the simple things that count in changing attitudes.

Involve customers in the process

At the very least, conduct surveys to find out what they would consider quality or excellence in doing business with you. You might also wish to consult some of them about your procedures and products. This reinforces their relationship with the company, and encourages future sales.

Talk with key suppliers 

They will feel part of the show if you take them more into your confidence. You might want to share training with them. That sort of thing can reduce the volume of defects markedly, and they are more likely to help you out in a crisis.

Consider competitors

It may seem weird to talk cooperation with competitors, and there will be areas of commercial sensitivity. Nonetheless, there will be many areas of mutual benefit, and the concept is the basis of benchmarking – a technique for learning from others by comparing notes in a structured way.

Post courtesy of People Alchemy

In Part 2 we will look at assessing your current performance, deciding where to improve and putting an action plan into place.

 

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