Lisa Bodell, Contributor
Oct. 30, 2020
According to a recent report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Americans are attending 13% more meetings since the country began working from home.
Whether the increase is fueled by a climate of fear, blurred work boundaries, inexperienced managers or all of the above, it’s time to re-examine our remote schedules and remove the time-sucks.
As a workplace simplification expert, I’ve seen issues that existed before 2020 greatly amplified during the pandemic. For example, the failure to clarify who should make which decisions is slowing down decision-making and creating a cycle of unnecessary meetings. Swiftest way to stop the cycle? By pushing decisions down to the lowest possible level — also known as the principle of subsidiarity.
To identify these kinds of time-saving opportunities, start by reviewing the decision-making processes in your own org. Challenge yourself and your colleagues to reduce or eliminate the number of people required to approve, review or sign off on certain decisions. To get the process going, answer the following questions:
- What’s the fewest number of people we could feasibly require to sign off on a report/hire/expense?
- How much money can a team member spend without requiring forms or a report?
- Which reports/forms/steps could we immediately eliminate from our approval processes?
During your next virtual team meeting, ask each person to make two decisions over the next month that would normally involve your input or permission. By that, I’m referring to minor but constant questions like “Should Tanya be invited to the sales meeting?” or “Can I process a refund for this customer or client?”
Thirty days from now, gather your team and find out:
- Which decisions did you make?
- Were you comfortable making them?
- Which types of decisions will you commit to making on your own next month?
Once people get used to decision-making, increase the number of monthly choices they’re making to four, eight, 10, and eventually 20. Consider adding a metric to measure the results, such as a decrease in your daily emails or fewer team meetings on your calendar.
When a group of managers at Merck Canada decided to stop making decisions that their direct reports were already authorized to make, the results were powerful. Employees who were known for passing the buck began taking responsibility for their own decisions. Overall, people made smart decisions and reported feeling more ownership over the outcomes. And managers? They found themselves with several hours of newly freed-up time every month.
Rather than merely telling team members that they’re empowered, give them tangible opportunities to empower themselves. And if your current role doesn’t include management responsibility, try an empowerment rule used by pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb. It’s called “Who’s the Decision Maker?” and it’s designed to prevent meetings from being held if there’s no decider in attendance, which is a waste of everyone’s time. Whenever you receive an invite to a new virtual meeting, inquire about which Decision Maker is attending. If there isn’t one, decline respectfully — and do something productive with that hour of your life.
By Lisa Bodell, Contributor
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