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03 Jun

Bundling questions make you more efficient

Datum: 2024-06-03 10:00
A colorful bouquet of tulips wrapped in brown paper.

A great thing about hav­ing col­leagues is that you can receive help and guid­ance when you need it. And, it is a joy and priv­i­lege to be able to share your knowl­edge with a col­league who asks for your help.

But, if we help too many peo­ple too often, it will become dif­fi­cult to focus on our own tasks. Some of the peo­ple I meet describe how they only have a moment here and there in-between help­ing oth­ers and meet­ings to real­ly con­cen­trate on their work. Some even tend to push and post­pone their own tasks towards the end of the day when they are most tired and not at all on top of their game.

And at the same time, we want to help — and we want to be helped when the need aris­es. So, how should we make it as easy and effi­cient as pos­si­ble both for the per­son ask­ing for assis­tance and the one being asked?

For you who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, this post is also avail­able as an episode of the Done!” pod­cast:

Batch­ing or qui­et hours”

The Swiss-Ger­man research team Käs­er, Fis­chbach­er, König and Klein­mann con­duct­ed a study not too long ago where they looked at how the effi­cien­cy of the helper, as well as the per­son being helped, was influ­enced by dif­fer­ent ways of struc­tur­ing the way help was asked for. The dif­fer­ent vari­a­tions test­ed were:
a) you ask for help freely, at any time, and as much as you want

b) you ask for help freely, except for dur­ing cer­tain des­ig­nat­ed qui­et hours” when we do not ask each oth­er any­thing, but only focus on per­form­ing our own tasks

c) you ask for help freely, but bun­dle a few ques­tions in a batch before asking

The researchers found that alter­na­tive c), to bun­dle or batch sev­er­al ques­tions up before ask­ing, was the most ben­e­fi­cial way to go in terms of affect­ing both par­ties’ effi­cien­cy pos­i­tive­ly — more so than when they had set aside qui­et hours, as in option b), when they would be guar­an­teed the focus they need­ed to do their work.

It did not come as a sur­prise that option a), ask­ing for help at any time, was the worst alter­na­tive for the col­lec­tive effi­cien­cy of both parties.

If you want to look clos­er at the study and find out what lies behind these par­tic­u­lar results, it is called Help­ing as Mun­dane Knowl­edge Shar­ing: Do Bun­dled Help Request and Qui­et Time Increase Per­for­mance?”.

Do this

If you want to put the researchers’ con­clu­sions to good use, then do this:

  1. Dur­ing the next meet­ing with your col­leagues; sug­gest that you try bundling and batch­ing ques­tions before ask­ing one anoth­er for help to the great­est extent pos­si­ble, for a while, per­haps a few weeks. Refer to the study if you want some sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence to lean on.
  2. After the tri­al, eval­u­ate togeth­er and dis­cuss how you expe­ri­enced this way of work­ing. Did it suit your team? Or, can you adjust your method a lit­tle to make it even better?

Become more effi­cient together

If you and your col­leagues batch ques­tions before ask­ing one anoth­er for help, all of you will become more effi­cient than if you ask ques­tions as soon as they arise — at least if we are to trust the researchers men­tioned above.

I might also add that batch­ing ques­tions did not low­er the effi­cien­cy of the per­son ask­ing for help. It did, how­ev­er, sig­nif­i­cant­ly increase the effi­cien­cy of the per­son being asked to help. And as we all know: some­times we are the one receiv­ing help, and some­times we are giv­ing it. But all in all, this method will increase the effi­cien­cy of the whole team or office!

What is your way?

How have you solved this par­tic­u­lar dilem­ma at your com­pa­ny or office? Have you agreed upon some­thing spe­cial regard­ing when, how and where to ask each oth­er for help? Many strug­gle with this kind of prob­lems. Help them (and me!) by shar­ing your way in an email to me.

(Do you know how to get a swift answer to a tricky ques­tion?)

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