Are you ready for 2015? January is behind us—already—and everyone is still scrambling to finish any leftover projects from 2014. Additionally, businesses are knee-deep in forecasting this year’s budgets and headcount. Being successful while maintaining your sanity requires internal team coordination, removing barriers, and working smart by avoiding inefficiencies, wait times, and bottlenecks.
Here are five ways to power up, get your internal teams working like clockwork and use the first quarter to set the tone for the whole year.
1. Organize Your Work
Information is in many places and requests for help are always streaming in. On a typical day, we receive requests from emails, texts, meetings, and even drop by conversations. How do we typically respond? By working harder. But is that always the best answer? Surely we’re entitled to the occasional lunch away from our desk!
It’s a good thing that a little organization can go a long way.
Create processes in your team or department that help you organize and prioritize work. You may be able to leverage tools you already have, such as your help desk/service desk solution to automate those processes and collect all the information you need to be efficient.
There are many ways to get organized.
Some of the common methods we’ve seen are:
- Create work queues: Organize your team workload into queues. Think of a queue as a place where work of a certain type, priority, or deadline goes. It’s similar to the way a call center agent might operate – it’s the next call coming in – in order, in priority, waiting for your action, when you’re ready. Queues take the guesswork out of what comes next. They make sure you always know where your attention is needed, and insures an important request doesn’t get buried in an email, and slip through the cracks.
- Establish Process Steps: Take some time to define how works get done. What steps need to be followed for common tasks? Once they’re established, agreed upon, and communicated to your team, you’ll have an easier time getting through tasks in a consistent way, rather than reinventing the wheel every time.
- Make the process work for you: Pick what you want to work on first. Every person, team and department works differently. So set up processes that help you be more efficient in the way you operate.
By organizing your work, you are not only eliminating stress and surprises, but most importantly you’re scaling the output of your team with the same headcount.
2. Encourage Self Service
We all self-serve when we pay bills, change a phone plan, or check the status of an e-commerce order. Why not apply this to the way we get our work done?
Self-service takes a little up front investment, but the payoffs can be huge. Recent research by Carmelon Digital Marketing found that 42% of customers were able to resolve their questions by going to a content resource. Think of how much time you could free up by not having to respond to simple commonly asked questions such as:
- Where can I find our contract template?
- How do I account for ad-hoc spend increases?
- How do I onboard a contractor?
Don’t already have content that your co-workers can use to answer their own questions? Create it.
Identify the top five most commonly asked questions or tasks and create content that your co-workers can use to self-serve. You will likely save time not just for yourself but others as well.
Documenting processes, internal knowledge, and best practices should be an ongoing practice. In the next year, enforce habits of creating new content for new questions as they arise so you’ll only ever answer them once. Over time your company will have an entire knowledge base at their fingertips and you can focus on the important stuff.
3. Create a Culture of Accountability
Nobody wants to be the person that holds up everyone else. And nobody wants to hand in work late because someone else held him or her up. These are two recommended ways to build a culture of accountability.
- Communication: It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to want to jump into work with rolled up sleeves without asking the important questions. Make sure everyone is on the same page about what the required output is, what their expectations are, and if there are any additional resources needed.
- Service level agreements, or SLAs: They sound complicated, but they don’t have to be. Once a process is established for how work is requested and responded to, you can establish benchmarks for response times. For example, when Amazon promises to deliver something within two days they likely have benchmarks for each step of the delivery: when the item leaves the warehouse, when it’s loaded on the truck, and when it arrives at the sorting centre. By setting up processes, and then establishing acceptable response times, people and entire teams can ensure that they don’t hold up work for everyone else.
Getting work done on time is not easy. Slip ups and delays are common, if not inevitable. But reducing the amount of delays through smart planning is within our control.
4. Staff Up for the Busy Season
Many companies use the end of year for planning and budgeting headcount for the New Year.
Here are the top ways you can prepare to staff up in 2015:
- Learn & Improve: Once you have processes and tools in place, a great by-product is reports on past performance. Look at past reports of work management such as the number of tasks performed in a given week, time taken to complete them, and how often you made and missed your desired times. Then identify the bottlenecks and work to remove them.
- Ask with Confidence: Use metrics to show your value and your team’s value in the organization and use that to lobby for an increase in budget or headcount.
5. Reward Everyone for Their Hard Work
In the rush and bustle of getting things done, it’s easy to just chug through one hectic quarter to the next. But, it doesn’t have to be like that. Take some time to thank your coworkers and recognize when they pull through for the team. Take your team out for a meal, send a thank you note, or publicly recognize them in some way. These are great motivators for them to keep pushing throughout the rest of the year – and everyone feels good. Better yet, build systematic rewards when they meet benchmarks so everyone knows that they are playing as a team.
Congratulations. You’ve just read through these five ways to jump start 2015 and you can now begin to put them into practice!
Sid Suri is the Vice President of Marketing for JIRA Service Desk. Prior to Atlassian, he worked in various marketing roles at Salesforce.com, Oracle (CRM), InQuira (acquired by Oracle) and TIBCO Software. He has an MBA from the Haas School of Business.