UPDATED: Getting Organized

A while back, I wrote about how I found a project management software called ASANA and something we were going to start using called ‘Start Sheets’. You can read about how we got started with ASANA here: Getting Myself and My Team Organized

As I stated in my original post, the challenge we were having was we couldn’t stay on top of what was being requested. The bigger challenge was the requests were coming in from so many different ways and people, to anyone on my team, so it was difficult to know where to start attempting to try and manage it all. Here is what we had:

ConfusionConfusion

Requests were coming in from everywhere and to everyone. On top of that, my team didn’t have a good way of managing what was being asked of them, so even if the requests were manageable, there wasn’t a good way to look at all of them in a high level to know what was really going on.

The other item I discussed in the previous blog post was Start Sheets. The idea here was to ask the questions that needed to be asked, so we could get to work on what needed to be done. This seemed to be a good idea, but the problem here was having this ‘sheet’ with you at all times or the questions readily available to be asked.  So, we had software that seemed to be easily useable and understandable, but now the challenge was getting the info into ASANA.

After doing a bit more reasearch I found that I could connect Wufoo, an online form builder, and ASANA. Once the online form was filled out on Wufoo, the form would simply load into ASANA, and it was ready to be processed. We call it the Media Request Form. I’d be more than happy to show it to you if you like, so just ask.

Here is how our new system works. When a request comes in, it gets entered into our Media Request Form or MRF. When the form is submitted it get’s emailed to the person that requested it and to an email list for my department. It also loads directly into ASANA into a project called “New Media Request”. At this point, everyone in my department can see the request. The requested then gets assigned to the appropriate person for the project to be completed.

This system is much like a funnel. When you pour a liquid from a container with a large opening into another container with a small opening, you’ll end up with a mess. When you add a funnel, now that liquid is channeled into the smaller container and nothing is spilled. This is much like how our system works. When all of these requests come from the larger container (all the other departments in the organization) and get submitted to the smaller container (our department) there’s no mess.

Order

Order

Now, obviously there is always an exception to the rule, but here’s the nice thing about ASANA. If something comes in last minute or something gets requested without using the request form, no problem, we add it into ASANA and it’s now a part of the system. We really try our best to enter everything we can into ASANA using the Wufoo form for consistency sake. Because, you know, there’s power in consistency.

What are the ways you are managing the things you, your department, or organization are involved in? I’d love to know. If you’d like to know more about the details of ASANA or our request form, I’d love to share.

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4 Ways To Achieve The Best Results

Recently my team was working on a rather significant video for a large event. Many hours were spent in the planning and preparation of the video shoots, and many more hours were put into the shooting and editing the video. I have to say the final video was incredible. I’m so proud to say that I’m a part of such a talented team.

While in the editing process, there were times I would step into the video producers office just to see how things were going and to see if there were any ways I could help. At a certain point we needed to determine the style of music needed to play in the background of the video. I decided I would be able to give some suggestions and even send some files I thought would best fit the tone we were attempting to set. I suggested a few different files, but there was one that I knew was it. It fit perfectly. It built when it needed to and became somber at the right places as well.

I sent the file to the video producer and told him the time where he needed to start, and the different places that needed to be edited. A day or two passed, and I went to ask if there was anything else I could help with on editing the song file. He ended up using something entirely different. I was a little bit hurt, but honestly more confused. Why would you use something different from what I sent, because I sent the right one?

I learned something that day. I learned that just because I had a different opinion didn’t mean I was wrong, but at the same time it didn’t mean the video producer was wrong either. So, let me ask you a question. What’s more important, for you to be right or for the outcome to be the best that it can be? I believe there are ways for you to achieve the best desired outcome but it’s going to take some work.

Create an atmosphere where people can share their opinions.

This is far from an easy task, partly because I have to swallow my pride and potentially say someone else has a better idea than I do. Arguably, it takes more pride, in my team or organization, for me to embrace another person’s idea. The other challenge here is it requires time. It requires me to actually get together and discuss the task at hand with my team. I have to plan for those meetings or that time will never happen.

Do a little arguing.

 I really do mean this. There has to be some strong feelings about what we are working on, because if there aren’t, we might need to find something else  to work on. I believe having those strong feelings and expressing them helps us process what we are trying to convey.

Ask the quiet ones to speak.

I’ve found that my personality can sometimes (probably more times than I think) rule a conversation or a meeting. So much so, there are people in the room that listen and process far more than I do, and if I don’t ask they will potentially never share their opinion. The funny thing is when I ask them to share, the wealth of information and knowledge they have is potentially the most valuable information that is brought up. I think some of this has to do with personality, but I also think it has to do with the way people process things differently.

Sometimes you have to take charge and go with your decision.

As a leader, sometimes there are circumstance surrounding a decision that have to be made, and I have to be the one to make it, even if the rest of my team thinks it’s the wrong decision. I need to create an environment where my team understands that if I put my proverbial foot down, then the conversation needs to be over. This is also something that takes time to teach, learn, and understand. There has to be a level of trust among my team to know when this time comes.

I believe without a doubt this has taken my team to the next level. If I truly believe I want my team to succeed I need to find ways to give my team a voice.

unsplash-logoHeadway

The Problem With We

So it happened today. I was sitting in a meeting, and we were discussing a fairly large event that was coming up. We were discussing all of the logistics and making sure we had everything covered. I looked over to one of my teammates and said, “we need to setup all the gear and make sure everything is working properly.” He responded by saying, “when you say “we,” do you mean me?”

It happened and I didn’t even realize it. I absolutely love my team and I love gathering my team, setting a course and accomplishing a mission together. So, what’s the problem with my team? Nothing. Actually the problem is with me and how I was communicating. Now, I can’t say that I get it right everyday, but I’m now aware of the problem.

In meetings I found myself always saying “we.” ‘WE’ need to accomplish this or ‘WE’ need to accomplish that. Unfortunately I wasn’t communicating well on what needed to be accomplished, and who was going to be responsible for accomplishing it. Here are a few things I’ve become aware of when it come’s to the problem of ‘WE’.

It sets unclear expectations of who’s responsible. 

We’ve all heard the saying about what assuming does. By saying ‘we’ and not actually delegating responsibility, it sets you up for failure and even still the responsibility falls back on your shoulders. The responsibility will always be on your shoulders if you’re the boss. You are responsible for the task being completed but not necessarily physically doing the task.

It reveals insecurities of the leader. 

For me I had to realize that I was in charge, so I needed to be in charge. God called me and placed me where I am, so I need to live out that position to it’s fullest extent. Not in a wrong way, but in the way God has placed me there.

|people want clarity more than they don’t want to be responsible for something|

via @allenwfarr

My team wants me, their boss, to make the decision, have clarity and be decisive about the task at hand much more than they want indecisiveness and unclear expectations of who needs to complete what.

It makes you miss your goals.

If no one is in charge, then how are you ever going to meet your goals? Better yet, how are you even going to know what your goals are? Someone has to be responsible to set the goals and expectations. The truth is, if you’re the boss and you don’t delegate the job clearly, then you are possibly going to be the one doing the work or the work simply won’t get done.

So, using clear expectations about what needs to be completed and communicating to the person or people that need to complete it, will give you the exact results you hoped for.

Are there other problems with ‘WE’ that you’ve seen when communicating with your team?

The Freeing Power of the Deadline

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been involved with music. I’ve been in concert band in school. I’ve been in marching band. I’ve been in jazz band. I’ve been in garage bands. I’ve been in bands at church. I’ve even been a one man band. Throughout all that time and all of those various bands, I had never played with a click until a got into college. In fact, I’d really never heard of the idea.

I would argue being a musician and playing with a click track is much like having a deadline. Now you might think I’m crazy, but first let me explain. Being a musician and playing with a click allows everyone to stop guessing where the beat is. It allows you to focus on the music, rather than trying to keep time. I will say at first it’s somewhat annoying and difficult, but once you get used to it, it becomes a necessity.

This is much like a deadline. With a deadline, everyone knows where to end without question. And if you’re smart, you’ll create deadlines along the way. You could call these soft deadlines. I’ll talk more about soft deadlines in a later post. These are deadlines that no-one but you and your team knows about. This will help accomplish the big goal at the end. In the beginning, deadlines will be annoying and possibly stressful. Some deadlines will probably always be stressful, but hopefully they’ll get easier to meet once you’ve set a few.

|with a deadline, everyone knows where the end is without question|

via @allenwfarr

So what exactly is a deadline good for?

  1. Everyone knows where the end is.
  2. It sets clear expectations for what needs to be accomplished.
  3. It helps everyone work toward the common goal.

If a deadline is never created, then chances are whatever you are trying to accomplish won’t be accomplished. It’s also probably safe to say that you will be met with many assumptions and much frustration.

I’ve heard it said that dreams are goals without deadlines and the things that are important to you will always have deadlines. So, are there some deadlines that you need to set?

Perfection… Maybe Not So Much

Perfection is the enemy of profitability. – Marc Cuban

My wife and I love the TV show Shark TankI was watching the spin off, Beyond the Tank when I heard Marc Cuban say the quote above. I had never heard that quote or any variation of it. Once I googled it, I realized you can interchange the last word, profitability, with many different words; Progress, completion, success and innovation just to name a few.

For me, I say it all the time, “I get that from my mom’s side of the family.” Perfection that is. I so struggle with making things perfect. You probably wouldn’t know it if you came and looked at my desk at work or saw how messy my garage was, but I can honestly say the word perfection has held me back from starting so many things.

Take this blog for example. I’ve probably owed the domain name for six or seven years. I’ve even attempted to start blogging when Apple had the program called iWeb. As you can see if you follow the link, it’s been gone for years. My problem was couldn’t start something that I couldn’t see the ending to and the end had to look perfect. It’s not that I was afraid to fail, I just really wanted to succeed.

It was funny, when I heard Mr. Cuban say the quote to the company he was trying to help succeed, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had to rewind it to hear him say it again. I’m pretty sure I rewound it a few times. It was like I had been doing something wrong of so long. I literally went to work and started some things that I was waiting for the perfect time to start.

Maybe your like me and you want things perfect. Or maybe you just can’t see the end. But maybe that doesn’t matter. I encourage you to start something today that you’ve been waiting for the perfect time. Today is that time.

If You Want To Build A Ship

So recently a teammate and I got into a discussion about how to keep going with all that life throws at you. With your job, your family, your responsibilities and anything else that’s important in your life, it’s understandable how one can get easily overwhelmed.

For me, I always seem to get fixed on the “how.” I always want to know how something
is going to be accomplished. When I worked for an audio, video, lighting company, I always wanted to know how they were going to hang the speakers or how they were going to hang the projector. It seems as though “how” is the unknown part of the equation a lot. Dictionary.com defines “how” as “in what way or manner; by what means?”

But maybe we’ve been asking the wrong question. How are we going to get more people to join our team? Or how are we going to get our projects, organization or department in order? Or how are we going to build this hypothetical ship? This whole time we’ve been looking at how, when maybe we should have been asking why.


If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

– Antoine de Saint-Exupery – Author of “The Little Prince”


I have this quote pinned on my cork board above my desk. I read it often, and it really inspires me to attempt to do great things. It speaks to the “why” rather than the “how” of what I’m trying to accomplish.

The “why” of what you do will always take you farther than the “how” ever could. The “why” speaks to passion and calling, where the “how” only speaks to the up hill battle and the tough meetings that will be involved. What in your life do you need to change your perspective and placement on?

Dictionary.com defines “why” like this; “a question concerning the cause or reason for which something is done, achieved, etc. 

It’s interesting that the definition assumes something is accomplished. It doesn’t say something not done or only attempted.

It’s easy for me to revert back to the “how”. I do it all the time. It’s something in me that makes me feel better about starting something, because I can know the outcome. But who cares!? If it’s so important you’ll figure out the how.

So “why”? Why do you do what you do? Why did you start, and why do you continue? What in your life have you been looking at the “how”, and do you need to change your vantage point back to the “why”?

Getting Myself and My Team Organized

So something my team and myself are really struggling with is keeping on track with the tasks at hand. It’s not because we don’t want to or even because we aren’t trying to. The problem is we always feel like we’re playing defense. There are tasks that are always coming at us and we never feel as though we can get on top of them. We always feel like we’re barely keeping afloat.

I had always known and heard about project management software but for some reason it didn’t make since to me. It was one more task that you had to add to your ToDo list. It seemed as though it was more work.

Enter Asana. Asana is project management software. I’m sure you’ve all heard of something similar. Asana for us is a perfect fit. It’s structure is 4 primary layers. Organization > Team > Projects > Tasks. I love it because my team is made up of other smaller teams but at times we are all working together on the same project. With this layout you can organize all of that very easily.

While this seems to be solving the problem of keeping tasks organized, it’s not helping us start a project when we’re trying to get all of the information we need. I noticed that each time a new task or project came to us, we’re asking the same questions. When? What? How big? What color? How many? So, my team and I have started something else that we’re calling Start Sheets. These are the questions to be asked at the start of a project, event, or task.

I work in a church and in our church we have a master calendar. When someone adds something to that master calendar there are a series of questions that they have to answer about their event. These questions range from, “when will your event happen?” and, “how many people will attend your event?” to “who is in charge of your event?”. It even has a section that my department added about the technical needs of the event. For some reason though, most of the answers on my section were, “see me later” or “more info to come at a later date.” And let’s be honest, a lot of the time that later date was the day of the event.

Over the years I’ve learned that getting out of my seat, walking to someone else’s office, and having a face to face conversation is the best form of communication. So, with these start sheets we will do just that. And in return they will do more than get some information about an event or a project, they will allow us to really understand what the person is trying to communicate. We will be able to see the expressions on their face when they are describing the project. It will give us significantly more clarity than an email or a calendared event.

I really believe Asana and Start Sheets will give us an advantage in our work that we haven’t had in the past and I can’t to see all of the possibilities. I hope to come back to you in the future and tell you about all of the things we’ve been able to accomplish because we’re organized.