If you have been following along, you may recall that in Part 1, we discussed one unexpected benefit of having an effective issue tracking system as being:
Benefit 1) The ability to speak with confidence during status meetings
If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you will want to go back and read it, since this benefit most likely is something different than you may be thinking.
In Part 2, we discussed the second surprising benefit of having an effective issue tracking system:
Benefit 2) Command healthy respect from your co-workers and management because they know you don’t let things slip through the cracks
Before we get to benefit 3, I feel compelled to continue to talk a bit more about that nasty little key to success, which is referred to as taking care of the details. As managers, we want to keep sight of the big picture and not micro-manage to the point of losing sight of the forest for the trees. Or worse, we virtually lose consciousness because we are in the weeds so far we get strangled by the details. I tend to agree with this, but as a manager at any level within an organization, there is a certain level of detail that is appropriate to the job that needs to accounted for.
If you, your team, and others in the organization are taking proper care of the details, chances are you are experiencing a significant amount of success. In case you didn’t know, 93% of all political forest fires are caused by improperly handled details. You’ve heard the saying, “The Devil’s in the details.” I’ve also once heard someone say “God is in the details.” Whether you think of it as the Devil, God, or something else completely different in the details, there definitely seems to be something in there of real significance.
But before you even think about tuning me out from all my cutesy, potentially over-metaphoric ramblings about the concept of “The Details”, let me share a secret with you. The world I work in is filled with many not-so-cute problems that involve many not-so-cute details. If my world sounds like yours, you understand that taking concepts and mapping them to reality is not always easy. Maybe that’s why success is such a messy business. Even so, don’t despair. In fact, all these problems, and details, and mess could be a reason to feel just the opposite, maybe even a tiny bit excited. What I’m suggesting is that there is a way to make the concept of taking care of the details tangible and doable in the real world. That’s right; and you can tell them I said it (whoever they are). The good news is that properly managing the details is just as much of a challenge for everyone else. The vast majority of people in the work world today struggle with details so much, that they have become mostly oblivious or numb to them. Kind of the same way a Post-it® note becomes invisible after being attached to your desk or monitor for a very long time.
Before I beat the details drum completely to death, let me offer you the third surprising benefit of having an effective issue tracking system:
Benefit 3) Get a job promotion because you are the only one that seems to be able to effectively coordinate efforts with other departments
Discussing the coordination of efforts with other departments, partners, or external teams may sound straight forward, mundane, and maybe only valuable if looking for an insomnia remedy. However, that is only from an academic point of view. If you have actually tried to coordinate with other departments or outside groups, perhaps the terms frustrating, perplexing, or even amazing better describes the experience in the real world.
But for those who become skilled at producing results though others, opportunities for career advancement should be expected. In my experience, one of the biggest challenges in working with outside teams is that I didn’t get to choose the people on those teams. Thus, I can’t expect that they are always going to go the extra mile, and do whatever it takes to make things happen in the time frame that works for me. Sometimes I get lucky, and for those of you who know me, you know I will always accept some good luck when it happens. Good luck unfortunately, is not something that can be counted on to create positive career opportunities. What can, is demonstrating the ability to successfully work through others.
Here is my basic formula for effectively producing results through others:
1) Clarify what you want done
Start with the end in mind. Clarifying your picture of a successful outcome is first step to effectively working through others.
2) Put it in writing
Taking your picture of success and putting it into words is a critical step that that takes intention and lots of practice to perfect.
3) Assign and Track in a transparent fashion
Assigning and tracking progress in a centralized place that is easily assessable to all goes a long way in removing many of the common challenges in working through others. When assigning, make sure you are assigning to one person and not a group of team of people. If you assign it to more than one person, no one is accountable.
4) Follow up
Follow-up is never eliminated while living on Earth. I can’t speak for other planets, but business on Earth will continue to require follow-up for the foreseeable future.
In my experience, I would say that the majority of professionals handle #1 in the list above in an okay fashion. Most also handle #2 to some degree. Lots of information gets put into writing, but the question is what happens after the ink dries or the electrons are stored. When you get to #3 however, after assigning, the number of professional who actually track things in a transparent way goes way down. If you have been within earshot of a professional sales team, group of project managers, or a collections department, you know that follow up is one of those fundamentals for success in the professional world. Everyone knows the importance of follow-up, but most do it sporadically. One key to foster more consistent follow-up is to lessen the burden of following up. One way to do this is to look back to #3 above and track things in a transparent fashion. Transparency is one of the best features of an issue tracking system. Transparency provides the power to transform an invisible elephant in the middle of the room, into neat and tidy line items, each assigned to the right person and visible to others as appropriate. Transparency promotes accountability which lessens (but does not eliminate) the need for follow-up.
Applying my formula above to reality does involve a few more details that we will have to save for another day. The process of issue tracking becomes easier as you improve your ability to effectively delegate, which we will be talking more about in the near future. Until then, can check out this:
Article by Michelle Randall on how to effectively delegate instead of dumping and running:
Let me hear from you on your thoughts on producing results through others..
“I would rather earn 1% off a 100 people’s efforts than 100% of my own efforts.”
– John D. Rockefeller