One of the keys of workplace competence lies in your ability to organize the inputs and outputs in your work life, so you can more easily locate data and resources anywhere: in paper files, on your computer, on the company Intranet, or distributed in your team members’ heads. Since information constantly bombards modern workers, the ability to access it efficiently can enhance personal and team productivity to a surprising degree.
By now, you probably have the basics down pat: a handy, usable, and garbage-free (HUG) time management system that includes your personal schedule, task lists, and contact info; a clean and uncluttered workspace; a dedicated filing system; and a simple file-naming protocol that helps you locate information quickly. You had to master these survival skills quickly to get where you are on the leadership ladder.
Moving On Up
You won’t stay on a certain rung forever, so it’s crucial to understand how your organizational skills must evolve as you acquire more responsibility. When you oversee a group, you require a complete understanding of not just personal organization and resource accessibility, but also of the systems that define and support your entire team, which you must strive to make as tight and effective as possible. You now must be interested in every aspect of your team members’ organizational needs as well: upgrades, file sharing, device syncing, calendaring, etc.
The look of your personal to-do list will shift as you move up in leadership as well. As an entry-level worker, your task list was relatively simple and straightforward: focused specifically on your own productivity. When you step into a leadership role, you change the focus. No longer are you responsible only for yourself and your job; you take charge of other people’s performance as well. Your to-do lists must weigh more heavily toward items you may have once considered of secondary importance, like ensuring the efficiency of group workflow; project management; mentoring; strategic reflection; and long-term planning. You’ll also have a more direct relationship with the upper levels of leadership, so you’ll be spending more time focused on their needs. Delegation of both work and authority becomes paramount, so you can hand off most of your responsibilities to those who can do them more cheaply and efficiently.
Each time you move up, you may discover that an approach that worked fine before no longer applies. When you reach the c-suite, you’ll no longer worry about individual organization per se; you’ll have team members to monitor those systems. Instead, you’ll oversee the “platform” on which the individual “apps” in your group run and make sure everything works more smoothly for the organization. One of your chief duties as a leader is to determine what pieces of the system might need to change in order to maximize group organizational skills and productivity.
Taking it Seriously
If you step up to the C-Suite, you may be obliged to delegate nearly all your organizational tasks, because now you report straight to the Board of Directors. You’ll stay busy determining the strategic plan, operational objectives, and associated budgets for the entire company. Your authority becomes ever more diffuse as others take up the duties of not just basic information handling, but also its more subtle aspects, like clearing informational silos and maintaining communication in all directions. Invest some time studying the entire range of systems and processes that organize, store, and transmit information and resources within your group.
Then tighten existing systems to maximize efficiency when you can, but don’t waste time and resources replacing them when you need only to streamline and modernize. Your employees can’t maintain their productivity if you keep distracting them with reorganization, no matter how good your intentions. The cliché of the new broom that sweeps clean remains a popular one, but so does “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”