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17 Aug

What structure is and what it is good for

Datum: 2009-08-17 22:21

Wel­come to the Struc­ture Blog. 

I, David Stiern­holm, am a Struk­tör”, which means that I cre­ate good struc­ture and effi­cient work pro­ce­dures for orga­ni­za­tions and their key people.
But, why struc­ture? What is the point with good struc­ture? Isn’t that a very square, bureau­crat­ic and lim­it­ing concept?

As I see it, on the contrary.

We all have dif­fer­ent goals and direc­tions in our busi­ness­es as well as in our lives. Maybe, we have a clear vision about what we want to accom­plish, for exam­ple to estab­lish our com­pa­ny on a new con­ti­nent, to reach a cer­tain size, to cre­ate a new range of prod­ucts or to be able to sell to a com­plete­ly new mar­ket. Maybe, we have a pic­ture of how we want our life to be, what ingre­di­ents we want our days to contain. 

But, many of us feel that we do not have the time to make those changes we know we should. As man­agers, we may need to devote such a large por­tion of our time to put out fires” that we are unable to raise our per­spec­tive and focus on the long term issues we real­ly would like to work on. As indi­vid­u­als, we may feel that our days just whizz past and that we nev­er get to the base of the pile, to the tasks we would most like to get done.

In some way, we need to get the impor­tant, yet tedious, tasks done more quick­ly, so that we get more time at our dis­pos­al to do the things that real­ly takes us where we want, in our busi­ness­es and in our lives. 

Enter struc­ture.

Free­dom and the com­plete grasp

Per­son­al­ly, I am the most pro­duc­tive when I feel free; when I feel free to focus on what is most impor­tant right now, with­out hav­ing to dis­perse my mind on all the alter­na­tive issues. I feel free when I know that there isn’t any­thing else that I should do instead, when there isn’t a phone call I should make, when there isn’t a meet­ing I should attend, when I am cer­tain that what I am doing right now, is the right thing to do at this very moment; that is, when I have a com­plete grasp of my situation.

In my world, he has a com­plete grasp who has an eas­i­ly acces­si­ble overview over all his com­mit­ments, in a sys­tem (dig­i­tal or phys­i­cal) that he can trust to the degree that he doesn’t have to try to keep all his to-do tasks in his head, just to be shure he doesn’t for­get any­thing. She has a com­plete grasp who knows that she will be remind­ed of what needs to be done and that she will decide to do it well before its deadline.

I also feel free when I know where to find the doc­u­ments, files, notes I need right when I need them; when I know that I will not have to spend valu­able time look­ing for the mate­r­i­al I need lat­er, when I have decid­ed to do the things that are the right things to do right then.

He who to a less­er extent needs to look for things, who has a smart way to quick­ly pri­or­i­tize between tasks, earns time. She has a clean desk and there­fore, she is not dis­tract­ed by vis­i­ble doc­u­ments she does not need right now. He has an emp­ty inbox, because he has processed and decid­ed on every incom­ing mail as it arrives, so he does not need to go through his mail­box for the fifth time today in order to see if he is expect­ed to act on any­thing in any of his mails. She spends min­i­mal time on recur­ring tasks that just need to get done”, since she has stan­dard­ized her process­es by using check­lists, tem­plates and oth­er tools.

Good struc­ture gives us free­dom, enhances our cre­ativ­i­ty and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, and earns us more time at our dis­pos­al to do the things we real­ly want do do.

Good struc­ture in the organization

This also applies to an orga­ni­za­tion. To take our com­pa­nies where we want, we need to do things out of the ordi­nary, activ­i­ties that make our busi­ness grow, activ­i­ties that demands our cre­ativ­i­ty and our ener­gy. If the work process­es in our com­pa­ny are unstruc­tured and inef­fi­cient, we will expe­ri­ence a con­stant out­burst of fires to put out” and we will not have enough time to work on that par­tic­u­lar project that we are cer­tain would mean a lot in the long run. We are busy tak­ing care of the every­day operation.

But, with well struc­tured process­es that we improve often, every­thing flows more eas­i­ly and we will find the time to raise our per­spec­tive and engage our cre­ativ­i­ty and ener­gy in the tasks that are most impor­tant for our business.

The way I see it, good struc­ture is what makes it pos­si­ble to cre­ate the com­pa­ny and the every­day life we long for.

What would you like to sim­pli­fy right now?

If you like to, ask your­self: What rou­tine annoys you the most at the moment? What recur­ring task do you find too stren­u­ous to per­form? Is it remem­ber­ing what to buy at the gro­cery? Is it pro­duc­ing this month’s sales sta­tis­tics and insert the data in far too many spread­sheets? Is it reg­is­ter­ing your trav­el expens­es from your recent busi­ness trip?

In what ways, large or small, can you make it sim­pler? There is always at least one pos­si­ble sim­pli­fi­ca­tion. Could you cre­ate a check­list over the dif­fer­ent steps that the task con­sists of, so that you don’t have to recall them over and over again? Could you cre­ate a clever tem­plate that relieves you from invent­ing the wheel again and again? 

What’s your trick?

What does good struc­ture mean to you and how do you man­age to cre­ate it? E‑mail me at {encode=“” title=“”} or post a com­ment below. I am always inter­est­ed in hear­ing reflec­tions and tips from others.