Rebel Diaries

Scott Fulton - How To Do Less and Deliver More at Work (Part 1)

December 19, 2022 Scott Fulton Season 1 Episode 35
Rebel Diaries
Scott Fulton - How To Do Less and Deliver More at Work (Part 1)
Show Notes Transcript

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Scott is the host of the Rebel Diaries podcast.  This is the first episode without a guest where he talks about his new brand "Do Less, Deliver More" and how he helps teams and leaders focus on what really matters and stop wasting time on what doesn't.   This episode of part one of a two-part series.  In this one, he covers the four key principles any team or leader can use to thrive in complex high demand workplaces.  Link to part two:

What Scott discusses

  • The shocking statistics on how much time people waste at work
  • The four key principles for high team performance
  • People falling asleep in meetings
  • How to make decisions based on the right things
  • Breaking work down into small components
  • The definition of team safety
  • The problem with making assumptions
  • And much more...

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[00:00:00] Scott: Hi, I'm Scott Fulton, the host of the Rebel Diaries podcast. This show will help you learn how to make work better for you, your colleagues and the organization you work for. I believe the modern workplace is broken for too many people with leaders and their teams, drowning in corporate complexity, information overload, and unnecessary levels of stress. 

[00:00:18] Scott: Having spent over 20 years leading disruptive high-performing teams who have won international awards for their impact. I've now dedicated my career to helping coach and train leaders and teams to deliver more value and impact at work whilst reducing the risk of burnout, overload, and wasted effort. 

[00:00:34] Scott: This podcast is dedicated to you and thousands like you who know work can and should be better.

[00:00:39] Scott: You'll get tips and insights from me as well as the amazing guests I invite to be the show, many of them have disrupted their industries and are thought leaders, speakers, and authors who have fascinating stories and advice to share. 

[00:00:50] Scott: Thank you for listening. I'm Scott Fulton and welcome to the Rebel Diaries show. 

[00:00:55] Scott: I'd get these kind of snipey emails and, wouldn't be invited to meetings and the team was struggling. I was struggling. It was just awful.

[00:01:04] Scott: I was working long hours working at weekends, just trying to catch up, keep on top of it. And trying to protect the team, but fundamentally everybody was suffering and it wasn't a great environment. 

[00:01:15] Scott: Meetings and emails are talking about work. They're not doing work. But how often do you come into work in the morning with great intentions and then you get lost in your email for the rest of the day fighting fires. The emails just keep coming and, the day passes you get to the end of the day and you finished work and you go. 

[00:01:32] Scott: " That wasn't great. I didn't deliver anything I wanted to do. I just had to deal with emails or go to pointless meetings". 

[00:01:38] Scott: It's very easy to sit in an office and make assumptions about what your customers will do. And how they'll respond to a new initiative or a new product launch. But you don't really know until you get it into people's hands. 

[00:01:50] Scott:

[00:01:51] Scott: Hi, and welcome to this week's episode. This is going to be part one of a two-part series. Hosted by me, obviously. But I don't have any guests. It's going to be me talking to you. So please don't switch off. 

[00:02:03] Scott: I'm going to talk to you about a concept called Do Less, Deliver More and I've trademarked it. So you can't steal it now. 

[00:02:12] Scott: It's part of my coaching and training program for teams and leaders. Which got off the ground this year in 2022. And I'm doing a big relaunch in the new year in 2023, depending when you're listening to this episode and I'm giving you an exclusive early preview as listeners to my show. Just before I get into it. I would like to thank all my regular listeners who've stuck with me throughout this year. The show launched earlier this year consistently delivered an episode every single week. It's been hard work, but I've enjoyed doing it and meeting lots of great people and giving you lots of value from the guests that we've had on the show. 

[00:02:49] Scott: So back to this episode. Do Less Deliver More. What do I mean by that? The first part do less is about doing less of pointless stuff, work that, people at work waste a lot of time. In pointless meetings, working on projects that fail to deliver. Stuck in what I call the chaos of corporate life. And for many people, work is fundamentally broken. You may be one of those people who feel that way. About modern work. And I'm obviously talking about office based. What can be described as knowledge work not factory work.

[00:03:24] Scott: So that's do less of what doesn't matter. And then deliver more is about delivering more value. More outcomes for customers, more stuff that actually is what people are employed to do. Because frankly, people spend a lot of time not doing what they're employed to do, and I'm going to cover that. 

[00:03:42] Scott: A bit in the second episode in a bit more detail. Which will go live next week. So do less deliver more, do less of what doesn't matter, deliver more of what does.

[00:03:51] Scott: So some of you may know, I worked as the Head of Digital for Avon and Somerset police for over 20 years. Started my first proper job back in 2000 January launched their first ever website. And grew a team of about 14. 

[00:04:06] Scott: And delivered lots of high value impact to citizens. And the team won lots of awards in the latter part of my career. But I'm going to take you back to about 10 years ago when it was a very different world and the team were not in a good place and I wasn't in a good place as a leader. We were completely swamped with work. 

[00:04:26] Scott: Spinning too many plates overloaded. Unable to deliver. Things were always late. Deadlines were slipping. And frankly, the organization. I say the organization and people within the organization had started to turn against us. We'd lost their trust. People would say, "oh, Scott's team rarely deliver", or "they never deliver". 

[00:04:44] Scott: " They've been working on this website for 12 months and we're not seeing anything". And, I'd get these kind of snipey emails and, wouldn't be invited to meetings and the team was struggling. I was struggling. It was just awful.

[00:04:57] Scott: I was working long hours working at weekends, just trying to catch up, keep on top of it. And trying to protect the team, but fundamentally everybody was suffering and it wasn't a great environment. Some of you may have been there before. Some of you may be there now. And I'm here to tell you there is hope. 

[00:05:14] Scott: About a year on things fundamentally shifted for us and we transformed how we thought about work and how we delivered work. Now there's two aspects. Now, the first part is what I'm going to cover today. How we thought about work. You may call it mindset. And the second part, which is going live next week will be. About how we delivered work, how we organized work. 

[00:05:34] Scott: On previous episodes I've mentioned that a chap called Cal Newport, and he's got a load of great books. He's got his own podcast, but obviously, you want to stick and listen to this one. 

[00:05:42] Scott: So he talks about two different aspects to work. So there's work flow which is how work is organized, how it's discussed. How it's planned. And think of meetings. Project plans. Emails water-cooler conversations. Basically talking about work is workflow. 

[00:06:02] Scott: And then the second part is work execution. So that's doing the work that actually delivers the value to your customers. And I describe that as the work you're employed to do the work, that's actually on your job description. If your job description is up to date, I know many people's aren't. Mine certainly wasn't. 

[00:06:17] Scott: So workflow. The act of organizing work, talking about work and work execution which is delivering the work. Now for many organizations, the modern workplace is fundamentally broken. And I say that because teams and individuals are spending the majority of that time stuck in workflow mode. 

[00:06:38] Scott: Talking about work meetings and emails are talking about work. They're not doing work. But how often do you come into work in the morning or switch on your computer if you're working from home with great intentions. "I'm going to get that project plan done today". "I'm going to get that business case written". "I'm going to do that really hard thing". 

[00:06:54] Scott: But the first thing you do is turn on the computer. Either go into your inbox or an email pings straight up as you log on. And then you get lost in your email for the rest of the day fighting fires. The emails just keep coming and, the day passes you get to the end of the day and you finished work and you go. 

[00:07:10] Scott: " That wasn't great. I didn't deliver anything I wanted to do. I just had to deal with emails or go to pointless meetings". So I'm going to share some interesting stats with you. 

[00:07:19] Scott: How often do you think the average worker spends checking their email? I'll just pause for a second and let you have a think about that. 

[00:07:27] Scott: Okay. It's every six minutes throughout a working day. People on average are checking their emails. That's crazy. Just think about how those constant interruptions are affecting your ability to focus and concentrate on what you're trying to do. Every six minutes. So that's not good for a start because you're sapping your energy and the tough things that you probably need to do the work execution is just getting lost, just not getting done because you're at you're in workflow mode, dealing with. Email chaos. 

[00:07:55] Scott: So the second thing that can be a challenge for many people. And I'm sure this will resonate with many of you is meetings and by meetings, I mean too many meetings. 

[00:08:04] Scott: Pointless meetings, dysfunctional meetings. How often are you in a meeting sitting there and you think "this is a complete waste of my time I could be doing something else" or "I've got a very small agenda item, but I've got to sit through two hours of a meeting just to do a five minute update. That could have been done in a different way". 

[00:08:21] Scott: Organizations love a meeting. And certainly the organization I worked for before. The police you've heard me mentioned on previous episodes. I'm sure if you're a regular listener. There was just meeting overload and that people would every now and again, like reset. "We're going to reset all our meetings. We're going to have less meetings". 

[00:08:36] Scott: But then a few months, it's back up to the level it was at before. So another quick question for you, how many days a month do you think the average worker loses to meetings that are a waste of their time? How many days a month. Does the average worker lose? Four days 31 hours, four days of work a month. 

[00:08:56] Scott: The average worker loses. Just think of the impact on the organization. How much time is wasted, how much inefficiency there is in that. But then think of the poor humans who are wasting a big chunk of their life sat in a meeting that adds no value to them or the organization. So yeah, four days a month lost. 

[00:09:13] Scott: So final question: what percentage of people do you think, admit to dozing off in a meeting? 

[00:09:20] Scott: 39% of people now that stat I think was from pre COVID days. So when people were, sat in a meeting room together dozing off visibly to other people. And I'm not kidding. I was in a meeting in the police. Where a very senior person, I won't name anybody's names., Was chairing the meeting, but they were falling asleep in their own meeting you could see their head dropping and going cross-eyed to try and stay awake. And a few people around the room noticed, including myself, it was a little bit awkward, but quite funny. 

[00:09:48] Scott: Yeah, 39% of people. And I'd imagine that stat might be higher now with, people for working from home. I sat with a camera's off in meetings. No one can see you're falling asleep. You might as well go and lie down in your bed if it's a complete waste of time and just hope that you suddenly, you don't get asked a question. 

[00:10:03] Scott: . So teams are suffering. People are stressed out, people are overloaded. The first part and the way to start to tackle this is to think about work differently. 

[00:10:11] Scott: And to do that you need principles. And you may have organizational principles. You may have your own team principles. They may or may not be written down. But I found over the years. That if I stick to something called modern agile, which we did cover a bit on the first episode with Joshua Kerievsky. 

[00:10:28] Scott: So I'll put link in the show notes, so you can get back to that episode.

[00:10:30] Scott: Joshua came up with this concept of Modern agile. And it's about making agility with a small a accessible to any team, any organization. We've covered agile in a few episodes, but essentially it was born out of software development. But what Joshua has done is saying actually there's four key principles that can apply to anybody. 

[00:10:52] Scott: So these four principles, I'm going to take you through today. And I cannot emphasize enough how transformational this was for me as a leader and for my team and the impact we had on the organization and customers. It was so impactful that it actually spread throughout the organization. So I'd get asked to help other teams. 

[00:11:13] Scott: They saw how well my team were doing, despite it being a very High demand, high change sometimes chaotic organization to work for. My ex colleagues are probably telling me off for saying that, but it was. And these principles were so important. They were stuck up on the wall in the office. 

[00:11:30] Scott: And they grounded us in all our decisions in all of the thinking that I made as a leader. But also when we were, tackling problems thinking about work. Okay. So I'm going to take you through each one, each principle. 

[00:11:39] Scott: So the first one is called, Make People Awesome. And that's the American version Joshua's told me he's working on a British version, which is make people brilliant. 

[00:11:49] Scott: But essentially. It's about saying everything that we do. Every decision we make every piece of work we do. Before we go into a meeting, we need to ask ourselves. "Does this contribute to helping our customers? Or our own team or our stakeholders?" The human beings that benefit from our team's work. 

[00:12:10] Scott: "Are we doing the right thing? Is it helping move the needle for them? Is it helping make their lives better? Is it helping them solve problems? Are we prioritizing the highest value for our customers?" Because quite often, if you don't think like that, it's very easy to fall into organization focused work. And I get that the organization has to exist and it has its own priorities. But this is about saying, "how do these align to why we're here? How do they align to solving problems for our customers and making their lives better?" Hence the name, meet people. Awesome. 

[00:12:44] Scott: And for me, that was quite easy in the public sector because our customer where the public and we were paid by the public to serve the public. So it was a little bit easier. There were still colleagues that didn't quite think in that way. They were out for themselves and, 

[00:12:58] Scott: We've talked on the second episode with Jerry McGovern about ego driven behavior. People want to make a mark people wanting to use some cool new technology just because it looks good on their CV. And I've certainly come across people in my career who thought like that. And I would use these principles to say, "wait a minute how does this solve problems for our customer?" It's a difficult one. If these people are more senior than you. But fundamentally, this principle is really key in terms of all your thinking, how does what we're about to do. Decision we're about to make. Help our customers or make people awesome. And that includes your team if you're a leader. 

[00:13:33] Scott: It includes your stakeholders. It includes your shareholders. How does everything we do? Make their lives better. Okay. So that's principle number one, make people awesome. 

[00:13:42] Scott: So second principle. I go through a different order to Joshua, but deliver value continuously is the next one on the list for me. 

[00:13:49] Scott: And what that means is it's about making work. Small enough. And breaking it down into small parts that you can continually deliver it. So this is moving away from how change and projects traditionally were done, where you had define all your requirements upfront. Then go away and work on it for 12 months or even longer, and then launch it and hope that people still want it. 

[00:14:13] Scott: In software development, for example, around 60% of features that get specified upfront. Making lots of assumptions. 

[00:14:20] Scott: Don't get used by customers. So this is about saying get work broken down. So it's small accessible and you can regularly deliver value. That's good because it helps your customers and your stakeholders see the value you're delivering regularly and feel the difference. 

[00:14:34] Scott: But it's also good for the team because they get a dopamine hit every time, they do some work and they actually do what they're employed to do. So break it down to small chunks. 

[00:14:42] Scott: But fundamentally delivering value continuously is also saying," are we delivering the right thing?" So if we go back to that first principle of make people awesome, we may have set a path and we're working on this thing for the next three weeks, but a surprise could come from left field and you may say, "actually, that's more valuable now so we're going to change priority". And that's okay. In the world that we live in, things are not predictable anymore. So you need that agility hence the name to be flexible to deliver regular value, but also be willing and feel safe to change course as, and when you need to. 

[00:15:15] Scott: So to sum this one up, it's about an iterative process of continual improvement rather than a big bang approach, which rarely works in the modern age. 

[00:15:23] Scott: That's deliver value continuously. So the next one is make safety, a prerequisite. The definition of team safety. Is that the team feels included. That it's safe for them to learn. That it's safe for them to contribute and it's safe for them to challenge the status quo. All without fear of being embarrassed, marginalized, or punished in some way. 

[00:15:44] Scott: So I'll just take you through that quickly step by step. Team feeling included. So everybody feels that they have a say. It's safe for them to learn. So that's about improving the knowledge, improving how they do their jobs. They're not expected to be. Top performance a hundred percent of the time, especially, you want that flexibility. It's good to learn and keep improving. 

[00:16:04] Scott: That it's safe to contribute. So it's important for the leader to make sure that everybody is heard and everybody's asked in a way that works for them. 

[00:16:11] Scott: It's quite often the quieter ones have the best ideas, so it needs to be an open, safe environment and safe to challenge the status quo. So I always say, and you'll have heard me say on other episodes, The team are generally closer to the customer than anybody else. So the people up in the chief exec suite, they're quite removed from reality. 

[00:16:30] Scott: So what happens quite often is the chief exec come up with an idea that they think is amazing. Tell the teams to just do it, but the teams are sitting there going, "I don't agree with this. I don't think this is a good idea" because they are more in touch with what customers actually need and want and customers behavior. 

[00:16:46] Scott: It's important. The team can challenge those assumptions. And I would quite openly say to my team, if I ask you to do something stupid or that you don't agree with, please tell me it's safe for you to do that. Just because I'm the leader. It doesn't mean to say I have all the answers. You are smarter than me. 

[00:17:02] Scott: So use your knowledge, use your experience, use your focus and closeness to the customer to tell me if you think that something's not working or we can do something better. 

[00:17:11] Scott: And then the final point all without fear of being embarrassed, marginalized, or punished in some way. 

[00:17:15] Scott: So you've probably some of you come across egotistical managers who won't listen to the team or who feel that they're being slighted. If somebody challenges them, A good leader in my view is happy to say "I don't have all the answers. My job is not to be the expert on everything". Actually, that safe place for them to challenge, to ask questions, to be part of the team, as it says, without being embarrassed, marginalized, or punished in some way. 

[00:17:41] Scott: So hopefully. Most of you are in that place in a team like that at the moment. But if you're not. Runaway. Okay. Because this is, you want to feel safe. You want to enjoy your work. You want to be in a place where you can work collaboratively. That's key. So make safety a prerequisite is the third one. 

[00:18:00] Scott: The final one is experiment and learn rapidly. So treat everything as an experiment. It's very easy to sit in an office and make assumptions about what your customers will do. And how they'll respond to a new initiative or a new product launch. But you don't really know until you get it into people's hands. If you think about the other point around delivering value, continuously break, work down into small chunks. Get it out to the customer as quickly as possible as an experiment. So you can get data and learn how to improve it. 

[00:18:29] Scott: I say assumptions are your enemy. It's very easy to make assumptions. Because, we're human, it takes effort and time to challenge our assumptions to get data, to do experiments. But without that, you're running a big risk of wasting time, wasting money and delivering the wrong thing for your customers. 

[00:18:47] Scott: Part of experiment learn rapidly and learning, being key. We mentioned that in one of the other points as well is giving the team or if you're an individual in a team taking personal time to develop yourself further to lift your head up from the weeds and the day-to-day grind and actually say, "is there something new out there I don't know about? Is there something I can learn to improve my ability to execute on my work, to deliver more value to the customer? "

[00:19:12] Scott: And what I gave with my previous teams was something called 10% time. Which was stolen from Google. And everybody in the team I said "10% of your working time you're encouraged to do personal research, read some books, get some online courses, look at some online videos, do some little pet projects, something to up your skill set". 

[00:19:32] Scott: Now people would challenge me the organization sometimes and say "how have your team got time to do that?" And I would say. "Because it's important, we will always have more work than we can ever achieve, but this 10% time is important for a number of reasons. One is actually I've seen time and time again, where that time that investment has saved time, further down the line". So one of my team, one of my developers previously, discovered some technology that saved us three months of work for a whole development team. That was time well spent. But secondly, it's also good for human beings to learn. We get we get benefits on that mental health benefits from learning and growing. So it also creates a better environment for your team. And people tend to, in my experience want to stick around longer when they've got those kinds of benefits. 

[00:20:16] Scott: And part of then the final bit for experiment and then rapidly is actually saying. "Let's take time out as a whole team. And review how we're doing". So don't just keep mindlessly running full steam ahead. Let's take time out and we'd run it every fortnight within my team, something called a retrospective where we say. 

[00:20:33] Scott: "What we're going to stop doing? What are we going to start doing? And what are we going to continue doing?" So you take time out to say what works, what doesn't. And how can we do better? And that could be anything. It could be, the environment, the team are working in it could be technology that they're using. It could be some learning or some mistakes that have been made. But again, back to the safety point actually safe to just put our hands up and say, that didn't work for us. What can we do better the next time? What are we going to stop? Doing? . So that's experiment and learn rapidly. 

[00:21:00] Scott: So I believe those are the only four principles you need to function as a team and as a leader. And hopefully you can see they're really simple. They're really accessible. But they all interlink and they all help you stay grounded and focused on what is important. And what you need to be doing and thinking about, customer centricity. 

[00:21:19] Scott: So just to recap for you. Make people awesome. Make people brilliant. Continually challenge. Are we doing the right thing for our customers, for the team, for our stakeholders, et cetera, is this the right thing to do? So should we go to this meeting or is it complete waste of time? We should be focused on delivering value to the customer. Second one deliver value continuously, break work down into small bite-sized chunks. 

[00:21:40] Scott: Deliver it regularly be willing to change course, but focus on small iterative, continual improvements to get the needle moving. And to continually learn. Make safety, a prerequisite safe for the team to challenge. Safe to be included, but also what I didn't mention is safe for your customers so make sure that you're building products and solutions that are safe for your customers and the organization. 

[00:22:03] Scott: And then finally experiment and learn rapidly, treat everything as an experiment. Challenge assumptions, invest the time in learning and experimenting and getting data. So you can test to fail and get closer to success. That's really key. So there you go. That's the four key principles of modern agile. 

[00:22:20] Scott: I hope you found that useful. As I said, part two. We're going to talk about workflow. So you've got the mindset. You've got the principles. Those keep you grounded. 

[00:22:30] Scott: Part two next week. We're going to talk about fixing the workflow. How do you make sure that work is organized? It's easy to prioritize. You've got visibility of work. it allows you to make the right decisions. It allows you to negotiate with stakeholders and find an efficient way to deliver sustainable value.

[00:22:49] Scott: If you want to find out more about my training and coaching services, my new website has just gone live. You just need to visit That's I'll also put a link to the website in the show notes.

[00:23:07] Scott: Thanks for listening and speak to you next time.

[00:23:10] Scott: A big, thank you for listening to the Rebel Diaries show your time is precious, so it is appreciated. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to hit that subscribe button in your podcast app of choice so you don't miss the next one. There's a new episode every Monday morning, ideal for your commute to work or early morning walk. 

[00:23:27] Scott: Until next time, take care be a rebel and deliver work with impact.