When my son was nine years old, his wish came true as the opportunity to deliver newspapers in our neighbourhood became available. His route had 61 houses on it and because the route came available right before the winter holidays, there was a whole second set of papers that needed to be delivered just to manage all the flyers.
I’ll never forget how excited he was to get his carrier bag and safety vest. We sat at the kitchen table to map out his route so he knew which houses to deliver to and which ones not to. We bought him a cart to pull the papers in and all set out to help. He was so excited, he started running up the street and up each of the driveways to deliver the papers. We cautioned him to slow down, and not to use up all his energy at the start. We explained that it’s better to do things properly, rather than rushing and potentially delivering to houses he wasn’t supposed to. After only the first 20 houses, he was exhausted and wondering what he had gotten himself into.
I think many of us can relate. We burst out of the gates in the spring of 2020, draft map in hand, cart full of what we wanted to get to everyone, and now we’re tired. Many of us did not pace ourselves well for the route ahead. Knowing we did the best we knew how is cold comfort when the demands haven’t let up and we still don’t know what the path is ahead. Like my son’s paper route, we rarely get the heads up about what the load is going to be until we open the door and see what’s landed on our porch.
Many of the tools we leaned on have carried us through to this point, however, many of us are painfully aware of the gaps and inefficiencies, where the patches are starting to fail. All while our stores are low and we’re tired from the energy it takes to keep being resilient. We know we need to be agile, but what does that even mean right now?
Adopt an agile mindset. According to Steve Denning innovating and delivering steadily more customer value, getting work done in small self-organizing teams, and cross-collaborating in an interactive network. In September 2021, we had the privilege of interviewing Agile pioneers, Mary & Tom Poppendieck who made the case for an outcomes versus outputs focus.
Pursue efficiencies relentlessly. Bad processes make for bad experiences and none of us can afford to lose engagement or, worse, employees because of inefficient processes! Dr. Karen Sobel-Lojeski, in her book, The Power of Virtual Distance, shares powerful insights about the impact of distance on productivity and happiness. One of her many findings is that the impact of physical distance is only half as crucial as operational distance! The case is clear. Attending to better processes will reap far-reaching rewards.
Prioritize daily. One client told me that they had a list of 72 projects on their to-do list! Wondering where to start? Try prioritizing your backlog using an Eisenhower Matrix. This prioritization tool is easy to use and can be a game-changer for anyone struggling with where to start.
Identify small wins and measure progress frequently. Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer’s research has never been more important. Making progress is motivating and we all know how critical a motivated workforce is.
The pace we set, the maps we draw and the routes we embark on need a thoughtful, agile approach.