For most, snakes are pretty scary, or creepy, or gross, or [insert other non endearing adjective here]. I admit to screaming and running from a snake or two in my lifetime (I won't reveal my age at the time, but I can assure you - that was the fastest I have EVER ran). What is interesting to me about snakes is their ability to swallow large prey whole, and as it digests, you can actually watch the lump of food move through it's body. (you are probably thinking - where the heck is he going with this? Stick with me here...)
I'll spare you the images here, but for those interested, there are plenty of videos on YouTube of snakes eating wolves, deer, and other large animals. The larger the animal, the longer the digestion. If a snake tried to eat something the size of a Volkswagen, could you imagine how that would go? Completely stretched thin, and surely a long, painful digestion. Yikes. So you know what snakes don't do? They don't eat things that are too big to digest.
Are snakes smarter than most businesses? Apparently.
Businesses try to bite off more than they can digest all the time. Think about it. Does your company have a master list of all the projects that have been started and/or are actively being worked on? I've seen companies have lists with hundreds of active projects. Yes, hundreds - with an 's'. Do you know what happens when you have that many projects being worked on at once? Resources stretched thin, and VERY. SLOW. DIGESTION. It takes FOR-EV-ER to get any of them done.
Stop doing that. Find your high impact projects and let the rest sit idle. Here's how to tell the difference.
I'll quickly walk through the steps to fill it out a Prioritization Matrix and use it to prioritize your potential projects. I have a free template to make this set up really easy, just click here to get it.
A Prioritization Matrix is made up of four components:
Here is a sample layout:
Using a Prioritization Matrix in a Few Easy Steps
Step 1 - List all the projects you could be working on (If you use the four quadrant method explained here, you’ll be able to pull all your number 2’s into this list.) Helpful hint: if some of these “project candidates” feel like something that can be done in a half an hour or so, there’s no reason to include it on the spreadsheet. Projects that are bigger and are difficult to estimate how long they’re going to take to complete are the ones that really belong in this matrix.
Step 2 - Identify the important criteria to be used to "rate" each project and put them in the spreadsheet. Then for determine the weight for each criteria and plug them into the spreadsheet as well. (If all the criteria are relatively equal - just put a "1" in for the weight).
Step 3 - Now continue through rating every project for every criteria. The “total” column will automatically tabulate the results by multiplying a project's score for each Criteria times the Criteria Weight that you assigned and calculate a total score for each project. If you are an organization that has a lot of projects, this could be a lengthy process, but you will be glad you did it.
Step 4 - All you have left to do is sort the spreadsheet by your total score from largest total score to smallest and it will sequence them in the order to work through them.
So, back to the original question - can a snake eat something the size of a Volkswagen?
Honestly, I'm not really sure. The better question may be, "why would he want to?"
Something I am sure about: don't spread yourself too thin by biting off too much and make sure the limited projects you are focused on actually deserve your attention.
One of the most frequent responses I hear when talking to people about improvement programs or improvement projects: They just simply do not have enough time. They say, "I want to find time to fix broken processes, but the time is just not there."
We live in a world of constant disruptions: phone calls, walk-ins, emails, Facebook messages, tweets, text messages, push notifications about news or your favorite sports team, etc., etc., etc. I had a discussion with a doctor recently; he told me about a study that showed people are actually becoming addicted to distractions (you know, like when you reach in your pocket to check your cell phone because you were sure you felt it vibrate, only to find out it didn't).
If you feel like you are always overbooked with so much to do, no end in sight and like you could not possibly find one more moment in your day - there is hope. This hope comes in two words: Focus and Routine.
Do this: make a list of every single thing that you have to do (if you already have a “to do list” – kudos to you, this part is done). Now determine the importance and urgency of each - either a task is important or it isn't. Same thing with urgency. Use these definitions to help decide:
Important: Tasks that are important to the success of the business, your job performance, or personal goals.
Urgent: Tasks that have a due date near or rapidly approaching. If there is no defined due date, it cannot be urgent.
1. Important and urgent tasks: Need to complete these fairly quickly - if you don't there will be a significant consequence.
2. Important and not urgent tasks: Typically longer term, High-Payoff activities. Make time to get these done - and schedule them in your calendar.
3. Not important and urgent tasks: Usually requests from other people that are not "mission critical" type activities. Delegate these (if you have the option), automate, or wait until the need for the task pops up again.
4. Not important and not urgent tasks: No value + No deadline = No attention from you. Get rid of these ASAP (and smile when you do)!
Many of us are aware of the "4 Quadrant" prioritization matrix discussed above (thank you Stephen Covey), but to be a success - it needs to be an integrated part of your day. Three systems need to be in place to ensure you are the one managing your workday, and not the other way around:
Get Started Today!
For those that are buried in a mountain of "to do's" and don't have a method for prioritizing or a routine to stay focused - give this method a try. Like right now. You will thank yourself!
For those of you that already have a successful prioritization process, I'd love to hear about it - please share in the comments below.
Thinking of Outsourcing your Internal Audits?
Christopher M. Spranger, MBA, ASQ MBB
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