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17 Aug

What structure is and what it is good for

Date: 2009-08-17 22:21 Comments: 0 st

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 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or post a comment below. I am always interested in hearing reflections and tips from others.

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