Understand the Current State
by Sharon Flemings

Just as understanding the direction of the organization is important, understanding the current state of the company (department, team…) is critical to addressing the challenges and opportunities you’ll be facing. You need to evaluate your organization from several perspectives: People, Resources, and Expectations.

People
It may seem obvious that you need to evaluate your people; however, there are several aspects to consider – Process, Staffing, and Support.

First, you need to understand the processes that your people are expected to execute on a regular basis, be it daily, weekly or monthly. A clear understanding of the end to end processes for which you are responsible is obvious, but have you considered the handoffs between processes? Particularly where a process crosses departments? Also, consider whether there are other areas of the organization where people are performing overlapping or duplicate functions. Are there opportunities to optimize processes to leverage skills or eliminate duplication or overlap?

Once you are confident that the work for which you are responsible is clear, you need to evaluate the level of staffing. Do you have enough people to execute the processes in your area of responsibility? More importantly, do you have the skill sets required to execute those processes with quality and on a consistent basis? If not, before you take on any special projects beyond the scope of your routine responsibilities, you need to address the level of staffing and/or additional training that will be required to provide the skill sets you need to effectively support existing operations. Other alternatives to consider are realignment of duties, reassignment of personnel and/or reengineering of the way your team works to ensure the best use of your people.

One other area to consider when evaluating people is the support your team receives – from training and educational opportunities, work assignment rotations, or other opportunities. Business changes so quickly anymore, that the more exposure to new opportunities and ideas we can provide for employees, the more creative and resourceful they become for us.

Resources
Most people think of people as resources, and while that is certainly true, I think it’s important to distinguish between human capital and non-human capital. Therefore, we will refer to resources as time, materials and technology.

We all know that time is the one resource we cannot produce more of, so we need to make the best use of the time we have – whether for personal or business activities and goals. Evaluate your operations in terms of the time people have to perform their responsibilities – are they over tasked? Under utilized? Time is such a precious commodity, yet we often don’t evaluate the work we do against the time we have available – make it count!

Materials are an important aspect to consider, and can certainly impact our ability to accomplish our work. Assess the materials available to your team, and determine whether additional materials would allow people to accomplish more in the allotted time, or otherwise provide for more streamlined operations. Often times, a small investment can make a big difference in an employees ability to accomplish the tasks at hand.

Technology is certainly a resource that must be evaluated on a regular basis. With the changes occurring at such a lightening pace anymore, there are constantly new products and services that can assist us in making better use of our people and other resources. Before adopting a new piece of technology, however, be sure your goals and expectations are clear so you have a way to measure the value that would be delivered from the technology, as well as a way to set expectations with management and customers. (more on this topic another time….)

Expectations
One component that is often overlooked in evaluating your current state is expectations – expectations of management, customers and stakeholders.

Understanding the current expectations of your management team is crucial in determining not only what needs to be delivered from your routine operations, but also to gain a sense of priority and importance of any new/special projects that might be undertaken. Before you spend too much time working on a proposal for a new project, evaluate management expectations for your organization and weigh those against your idea.

Additionally important, is understanding the expectations of your customers – both internal and external. Do they have expectations around enhanced service delivery, new products or other needs? If so, these need to be taken into consideration with other opportunities you have identified for the use of your people and other resources.

How about other organizational stakeholders – do they have expectations that need to be met before undertaking additional projects? How do these expectations play into your current workload? What effect do they have on your current processes? 

Take Action
Now that you’ve reviewed the current state of your organization, take a look at your goals for this year and answer the following questions:

·          Based on the people, resources and expectations, are all of these goals achievable?

·          Which goals require adjustment for one reason or another?

·          Which goals should be dropped because there is no reasonable expectation that they will be met?

Related Articles:
Identifying the Strategic Processes

The Importance of Thinking Laterally
Why Technology Projects Really Fail

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