Killing several birds with one stone

… or how to create a productivity hack.

In a complex task environment, there is usually more than one goals to achieve – in different target fields. Tasks to achieve goals are sometimes in a conflict between different objectives, sometimes they are reinforced by the fact that you can serve different target fields at the same time with one activity.

An example –

During my time as plant manager, the CEO personally supported the implementation of the company-wide Six Sigma initiative. This refers to a management system for process improvement and at the same time serves as a method of quality management. Its core element DMAIC is the definition, measurement, analysis, improvement and control of business processes by statistical means.

I myself had adapted and taught this methodology in my previous role as a company-wide facilitator within our company, and then hired later corresponding project managers, so-called Blackbelts, during my role as plant manager.

Each of them was trained in this methodology for six months and then, together with a team and project sponsors, was tasked to achieve improvement results with the value of USD 1 million per year. The awarding of the certificate at the end of the training was always an important and celebrated event.

Now the day was imminent, on which for the first time a Blackbelt from our plant participated in the award ceremony during an evening event with a large audience. As coincidence happened, on the same day the CEO of our company was near our plant and invited me to a one-day event along with other managers.

As it turned out, I had the opportunity to chat with him during a break. Of course, I was not unprepared for such a situation and had my “elevator speech” ready, according to the motto: Present an interesting topic with two or three sub-topics in 90 seconds (in principle the duration of a ride in the elevator), so that the interest of my counterpart is aroused and perhaps even a longer conversation would result.

For me, the upcoming investment projects were always important topics, for which I, as plant manager, needed the approval of upper management including the CEO. What an opportunity to advertise it personally to the CEO, cleverly arousing interest in it.

This was exactly what worked that day, so well that the CEO asked me if I would like to join him for dinner today and share a few more ideas.

Now my faux pas: I said no, because I had already agreed to the Six Sigma celebration event in the evening, where one of my employees should be awarded. His response was a nod of approval and the remark that he might join this event a little later.

On the car ride back to the plant, I immediately called my external communications coach, hoping to reach him on the phone right away. It worked.

“I think I just made a big mistake”, I told him about the situation and my spontaneous cancellation of the CEO’s dinner invitation.

“Mr. Scharbert, he said, you have just given your CEO a very strong message about how important Six Sigma really is to you. A core topic to him and close to his heart. And this is, because you value your personal presence during the Six Sigma honouring of your employee as more important than the personal dinner with your CEO. And there you will certainly not be the only one and may hardly get a chance to speak. Your attitude towards Six Sigma had made an impression on your CEO, I’m sure.”

During the evening event, I sat directly at my employee’s table, made sure that a seat at the table remained free and talked to him again.

“Do you have your elevator speech ready?”

“Of course, Mr. Scharbert, you know it very well.”

“Agreed. Tell me again briefly.”

So, we “practiced” again, very casually and without pressure. And when the CEO suddenly appeared for dessert, noticed me and the free seat at our table, he spontaneously sat down with us. So it happened that my employee was able to use the opportunity of the conversation with the CEO and was extremely well prepared for it.

This day had become an absolute experience for me. I felt fulfilled and happy. I had served three target fields at the same time.

✳ First, important investment projects of the plant prepared communicatively,

✳ secondly, authentically represented the high importance of Six Sigma internally (vs. employees) and externally (vs. CEO) and

✳ thirdly, having provided my employee with a career talk opportunity for which I had prepared him accordingly.

An unforgettable day.

A look at my personal balanced scorecard landscape has shown me how diverse the possibilities of double and multiple roles between the individual target fields can be. They are possible within an area and also between target fields from different areas, real cross-relationships.

For the fun of the matter, I had evaluated the links of target fields of my scorecard semi-quantitatively, with the help of a cause-and-effect matrix from the Six Sigma toolbox.

I developed a high-score strategy based on the learnings applied with this tool. And I was actually able to recognize such efficiency high-score activities based on my associated feelings of happiness.

My tip for the productivity hack is to identify your own reinforcement tasks and focus on them.
In these double or multiple roles, two (or more) birds can be killed simultaneously with one stone. And this leads to a significant increase in efficiency and often even to real feelings of happiness associated with it.

➡ And what about you? Where do you use activities in dual roles to increase efficiency?

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