Rebel Diaries

Scott Fulton - How To Do Less and Deliver More at Work (Part 2)

December 26, 2022 Scott Fulton Season 1 Episode 36
Rebel Diaries
Scott Fulton - How To Do Less and Deliver More at Work (Part 2)
Show Notes Transcript

If you enjoy this episode please leave me a voicemail and possibly get featured on the show: https://www.speakpipe.com/rebeldiariesvoicemail 

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 two of a two-part series.  In this one, he covers the processes you can use to "organise the chaos" of work.   Part one of this episode: https://www.rebeldiaries.net/1969403/11891892

What Scott discusses

  • The impact of multitasking and how it is a myth
  • Interruptions impacting deep work
  • How juggling multiple projects reduces your time to deliver any of them
  • Why it's better to be good at a few things than awful at lots of them
  • Why it's important to understand there will always be more work than you can ever do
  • How to prioritise the highest value
  • How to reframe work to ensure it focuses on the outcome for your customers
  • 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. 

[00:00:54] Scott: We can only prioritize if we know what the value to be delivered is. We can only know what the value is. If we understand our users and customers needs. And we can only understand our users and customers needs. If we have time to work with them. 

[00:01:07] Scott: So it means you've now got a way to have powerful conversations and negotiations with stakeholders. 

[00:01:13] Scott: Around their pet project. They've asked you to do compared to the work you've got prioritized

[00:01:17] Scott: Now the reason being there's a significant impact when you context, switch between things. , A lot of people say "I'm great at multitasking, I can juggle many things". The science says you're not actually juggling many things. Your brain is just rapidly switching. 

[00:01:33] Scott: Hi, Scott here. Welcome back to the show. And this is episode two of a two-part series, which I've called Do Less Deliver More, Do Less, Deliver More is my new brand for my training and coaching services where I help people and teams do less of what doesn't matter at work and more of what does matter. 

[00:01:54] Scott: And that's the theme of what we're talking about today. Now, if you haven't listened to the first episode for this two-part series, I strongly suggest you stop listening to this one and check that one out first. I will put a link in the show notes. That one is all about the principles. Today's episode is more about the processes and in, my experience, you need to have both. And actually you can almost do away with some processes. As long as you've got some really strong principles, they are vital. All too often people follow processes blindly without even knowing why they're doing it. 

[00:02:25] Scott: A concept that is really important to understand is two different types of work. there's work execution. Which is doing the thing you're employed to do. And there's workflow, which is everything else. So that's emails, meetings, project plans. Business cases, and all of that stuff. 

[00:02:42] Scott: Doesn't deliver value to the customer. It's talking about work in essence. The problem is many teams are spending most of the time stuck in chaotic workflow mode. So they're just wrestling with beurocracy and organizational rules and paperwork and meetings, and have very little time for execution. 

[00:03:02] Scott: The only way. To increase your execution capacity and time. It's to fix the workflow and I call it organizing the chaos. Just to put this into perspective. I surveyed over 30 teams and 89% of them said they were spinning too many plates. So just doing too much at the same time, 79% said they had no time to measure any outcomes. Now that's a massive red flag for me because. 

[00:03:26] Scott: The majority of people not having time to measure their outcomes, potentially you're delivering work that's delivering no value whatsoever. Because you don't have time to actually retrospectively look at it and say, "was that a good use of our time? Are the customers using the product? Are we improving? Is it landing? Is it increasing?" 

[00:03:44] Scott: Benefits, et cetera. If you don't have time to measure outcomes you're potentially wasting significant amounts of time. And then finally 52%. So just over half said they were tasked with work regularly they don't agree with doing. 

[00:03:56] Scott: That's probably caused by what I call the hippos. You may have heard the term hippo, highest paid person's opinion. Where the boardroom has a meeting and they say "yeah it would be great. If we did this, our customers will use this" and give it to teams and say," just do it because the boss wants it done". 

[00:04:10] Scott: Not actually asking the people who are employed, who are smart with skills and expertise and closest to the customer, whether it's the right thing to do. And that's just demoralizing for the professionals that have been hired. And again, very wasteful because those lack of evidence-based decisions, rarely pan out. 

[00:04:27] Scott: So workflow is chaos for many people. And the impact of multitasking and context switching is significant. So I just want you to imagine for a minute in a perfect world where you have no emails to deal with, you have no instant messages. You have no meetings to go to that are a waste of time. 

[00:04:48] Scott: You just have a hundred percent of your working capacity, able to focus on one task or one project. At a time so a hundred percent of your time and focus at work is delivered on one project. Great. 

[00:05:01] Scott: So then if you take on two projects at the same time, your capacity to focus on the two gets reduced to 80%. Now the reason being there's a significant impact when you context, switch between things. , A lot of people say "I'm great at multitasking, I can juggle many things". The science says you're not actually juggling many things. Your brain is just rapidly switching between things. It's physically impossible. To think about things and concentrate on two things at the same time. So what happens is when you're in deep work state and concentrating heavily on something. If you get interrupted, it can take a significant amount of time for you to get back into that deep focus mode. 

[00:05:43] Scott: And, we've talked to in the previous episode about constant interruptions and emails, that stuff just stops you from getting that space. So again, in this hypothetical scenario, we're still not getting interrupted, but we're juggling two projects at the same time. So you get reduced to 80% of your capacity is actually focused on the projects . 

[00:06:00] Scott: Take on a third project that reduces to 60% take on a fourth that's down to 40%. 

[00:06:06] Scott: Take on a fifth project and you're really in trouble. You're down to only 20% of your working time. Able to work on the projects. You're juggling. The other 80% is just time lost due to context switching. So while some people think it's great and impressive to be juggling multiple projects. 

[00:06:24] Scott: The impact on your work and your capacity is significant. And it's the same with organizations that are at a bigger scale. So I used to work in an organization. There's no secret while that is. There was there were departments that had over a hundred projects on the go at the same time. And this was the department no bigger than a hundred people. And not all of those people were working on projects. 

[00:06:47] Scott: And it was no wonder that practically nothing was getting over the line or things were being rushed and corners were being cut and things were failing when they launched. 

[00:06:56] Scott: I've long said. It's much better to be really good at a few things. Than average to awful at a lot of things. 

[00:07:05] Scott: So the impact of multitasking is significant. What do we do? 

[00:07:09] Scott: One key thing to remember is we need to be able to comfortably say to ourselves and others, including our bosses. That we cannot do everything. So I would say to colleagues," there will always be more work than my team can ever do. There's almost endless opportunities of things we could be doing". And now that could become overwhelming if you think about that. But actually if you say follow the principles we've talked about in the first episode. And think about" look I realize I cannot do everything. I know that if I multitask, I'm going to do badly. So how can I find a way to prioritize the highest value work and just focus on that? "

[00:07:45] Scott: You may have heard a boss saying "these two things", or "these three things have equal priority". If you look up the definition of priority in the dictionary, there can only be one priority. It's a misnomer to think you can have multiple priorities. 

[00:07:58] Scott: That in itself presents a challenge. So you need to get to a place where you say I have one priority that I'm going to work on now. It may be for a short period of time. 

[00:08:06] Scott: And we talked in the previous episode about breaking work down into small component chunks that gives you the flexibility to adjust your priorities or move in and move out other pieces of work. 

[00:08:16] Scott: Key to this and organizing the workflow is being able to minimize the work in progress. What we want to be doing is to stop starting work. And start finishing work. 

[00:08:28] Scott: Focus on finishing things, getting them over the line, delivering value and impact to our customers. 

[00:08:35] Scott: So if we agree that. We need to prioritize. The other key thing to build into that is. You need to be continually prioritizing. So that means we need to regularly review what we're working on, what's coming up and focus on more the short term than the longer term. Keep the longer term in mind, but focus on days and weeks. And sometimes months. But say we want to get stuff over the line as quickly as possible. We want to deliver outcomes. We want to deliver impact. 

[00:09:04] Scott: So the challenge to prioritization is if we agree, everything is about continual prioritization. Now I say continual because you do need somebody in the team, probably the leader to regularly review. Are we working on the right thing? If we're not, I need to get agitated about that. I need to think about and check actually, no, we should be working on this. We're going to switch to that. . And the techniques I've talked about in the mindsets previously, give you that flexibility. So we need to regularly prioritize, and accept we can't do everything. . 

[00:09:29] Scott: We can only prioritize if we know what the value to be delivered is. We can only know what the value is. If we understand our users and customers needs. And we can only understand our users and customers needs. If we have time to work with them. 

[00:09:41] Scott: What do we do? So the first key thing to do is to reframe work. 

[00:09:46] Scott: The best way I've found to do this is to write everything as what we call a user story. Now by user, I just mean customer. And by customer, it could be your actual paying customers. It could be someone in another team that is essentially still a customer of your team. That you worked with or shareholders or stakeholders. 

[00:10:08] Scott: But on the whole, depending on the nature of your work, you're writing them for your external customers. So user as in customer, Story, because it tells a story of the work that needs to be done for the user and the problem that they need solving. 

[00:10:24] Scott: So they're written in a very specific way. You start with the who. Then you go on to the what. So what is it they want. And then you go on to the why. So why do they want it? Who is it? What is it? They want. And why do they want it? And all work. I'm not exaggerating to say that all my team's work was written in this way. 

[00:10:44] Scott: And I'll explain why that's so powerful in a moment. 

[00:10:47] Scott: I'll give you an example. 

[00:10:48] Scott: Who Christmas shopper. What I want gift ideas for my 80 year old grandmother. Why. Because it's a special occasion and I want her to remember it for years to come. Now notice there is no solution in that story. There's no technical terms. There's no jargon. The reason it's written in this way is because it makes it accessible for anybody. 

[00:11:11] Scott: It's simple to understand, and it's completely user or customer centric. Now an alternate way to write that wouldn't be helpful. It'd be from an organizational perspective. So user sales team. What do we want? To sell loads of gifts for 80 year old women. Why?. To make loads of money and make the shareholders happy. 

[00:11:34] Scott: Now that's an extreme. Contrast and an extreme example, but I'm just trying to make the point that you can see the difference there. It's very easy to be organization centric and lose sight of your customers. Writing user stories in this way, forces you to. To think about who is the person you're trying to help. What's the problem you're trying to solve for them. 

[00:11:54] Scott: Now, if you write all your work in this way, and every piece of work has the value statement. You can then see how it starts to become much easier to prioritize work. You don't have work sat in your inbox or on a post it note on your desk. 

[00:12:08] Scott: So your user stories. You would normally store them in an electronic tool like Trello, or if you're a Microsoft company planner to do or whatever they calling it these days or this week. Cause they can't seem to make up their mind. 

[00:12:21] Scott: Now what you do with your user stories next is prioritize them and you put them into order. Now, the order is put into a single vertical column in something that's called a backlog and other bit of jargon there, or you can call it a to do list, whatever you want to call it, it doesn't matter. 

[00:12:37] Scott: So just a few tips on how to prioritize. So it's not an exact science. But the kind of things I would be thinking about are the value to the customers and the scale of that. So is the work going to benefit 500 customers a week versus 10 customers a week? 

[00:12:52] Scott: And also value to the organization whilst we are absolutely trying to be customer centric. The organization still has to exist. Generally, if the customers win the organization wins, but there will be some things that. I get, will be organizational focused, but also complexity. So not just time, but how complex is it? Not just how long it'll take. 

[00:13:14] Scott: Is there evidence of need. We've talked about that as one of the principles in the last episode, if there's not, then I'd have some red flags there you'd need to get that evidence.

[00:13:22] Scott: Finally, what's the team's skills, ability and capacity to actually do the work. So just some things there to consider as part of that prioritization process. 

[00:13:30] Scott: So you've got your prioritized list. 

[00:13:33] Scott: And to start work, you take the top item off. Move it across. And start working on it. And that's when you start to get into the solutions and how are you going to actually solve the customer's problem. Now what you shouldn't be doing is taking more stories off the top. You should finish the one you're working on and only when that's finished, properly finished. You then take the next one off the top. It's that simple. Now. One of the key things to bear in mind is we talked about prioritization and reprioritization. That backlog or list or to do list needs to be maintained, it needs to be reviewed regularly. Make sure that you've got any new items that come in, go into their right priority order. 

[00:14:16] Scott: But also get rid of stuff that's been there a while, or is no longer a value you need to maintain it and keep on top of it. But by getting all of your work into one single place. There's so many benefits. Things like visibility of work. So it means you've now got a way to have powerful conversations and negotiations with stakeholders. 

[00:14:35] Scott: Around their pet project. They've asked you to do compared to the work you've got prioritized. It's not lurking, as I said, in your inbox or on a wall in the office. But also it's good for you because you've got some mental clarity. You're not feeling the pressure of, "oh, I've got so many different things at work, dotted all over the place." 

[00:14:54] Scott: And you're minimizing the things you're trying to juggle at the same time. So there's lots of benefits for you mentally. But also performance wise, I said earlier that stop starting work and start finishing. So take one off the top, work it through, get it done. And I remember the principal and about work being small and bite-sized chunks. So ideally these user stories should be small enough to be something you can achieve within a day. 

[00:15:18] Scott: Or a couple of days, max, you don't want it to be something that's three weeks of work because that defeats the whole point and principle that we've been talking about in the other. Podcast episode. 

[00:15:27] Scott: That's it. You've got your user stories ordered and prioritized, written in a specific way. 

[00:15:33] Scott: And it should be possible to turn any piece of work into a user story. And then you prioritize them. And then start to work on them. 

[00:15:42] Scott: Now. A particular project, for example. Maybe made up of multiple user stories, because remember we said, we break work down and that's really important.

[00:15:50] Scott: Now, I'm not going to go into that in the podcast today. I don't want to overload you. And also this is part of my training course for teams. Obviously if you're interested in that check out my shiny new website, Scott fulton.co.uk. Or I've got details of the courses that I offer and the personal one-to-one coaching that I provide as well. 

[00:16:10] Scott: I hope you got some value from this today. 

[00:16:13] Scott: Try it out and let me know what you think.

[00:16:15] Scott: There's a link in the show notes. If you want to leave me an audio message and I'll play that on the show. Obviously, as long as it's polite and not rude. But until the next time. Thanks for listening. 

[00:16:24] Scott: I'll speak to you next week. 

[00:16:25] 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. 

[00:16:43] Scott: Until next time, take care be a rebel and deliver work with impact.