There is a growing trend in businesses to work fast.
To work in short sprints. To get tasks over the line and stop them from lingering. The prevalent software development working-practices of ‘sprints’, ‘scrums’ and all things ‘agile’ are starting to spread across other industries. This is good.
I think that there is a lot that other fields of business could benefit and learn from agile working practices.
However, the same principle does not apply to ‘thinking’ about a problem or task and how to solve it.
Work fast – Yes. Think fast – No.
Thinking and doing are two very different animals. Doing can be done fast only if we have invested the time upfront to think it through and plan it.
“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes solving it.”
– Albert Einstein
And so this is where the danger lies. Diving into tasks with little forethought. Eager to get the task done. Things can then rapidly start to go awry or even break-down completely. We need to take the time out to think slowly first. To adequately prepare for the task at hand. To have conversations. Determine expectations of all stakeholders. Learn from previous similar tasks. Set deadlines, responsibilities and outputs.
Think slow and then work fast should be the order of the day.
Sometimes you have a hunch that business isn’t going right. The cash in the bank is not building as it should. Customer numbers seem down. Yet you seem to be adding more staff.
Something just doesn’t feel right….but your intuition usually is right….
At times like this, you just need to sit down and crunch the numbers.
It doesn’t matter whether you have some fancy software or a pen and paper. All work as well as each other, as long as you set the time aside to work through the figures. To find trends or blockages. Or costs that have got out of kilter. Percentages such as gross profit and net profit allow you to get a handle on how the business is performing. Mapping forward likely revenue (income) and costs helps you see where you might end up…
None of this is rocket-science in running a business but it’s easy to overlook – as you get caught up in the day-to-day running of it.
Tomorrow is a Friday. Take out a pencil and paper and start to jot down your revenue to date and costs to work out your profit (or loss) for your financial year so far. Then take it from there.
Poke. Prod. Challenge yourself and your business to do better over the next 12 months.
As I sit here and plan my week ahead, the list of tasks that I need to complete seems to get longer and longer. Week on week.
We all seem to have ever-expanding “to-do lists”!
So at times like these I think to myself: maybe I need to ask myself a better question… And I came up with this question:
What tasks could I take away this week?
Hmmmm, thinking about what I do in a typical week, I need to consider what tasks I could either: eliminate, automate or outsource/delegate?
Writing down a list of repeated tasks on a piece of paper, I add these three columns with these three titles. And start to allocate tasks between the columns where possible. Already I can see possibilities to free up time.
I recommend you try this for the week ahead. See what tasks you might be able to stop doing altogether or automate (using apps like Zapier and IFTTT) or outsource/delegate.
We can’t keep adding more. We need to explore ways to take tasks away.