Taking Control by Using a Proven Process

February 2022

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A young professional friend, Jen, works in a large enterprise. Jen told me how an interim manager from an unassociated department requested major rework done on a 60-page standard document that her team had submitted for approval. This request left the team stunned as the requirement seemed ill-considered. Jen admits she and her team came away from the meeting not fully understanding what the revisions for the document should be. A panicky feeling fell over Jen.

“Your first instinct may be fear-based (secretly hoping someone else takes a stab at an interpretation of the request),” I told her. That initial response is OK, but shake it off because the goal is to deliver on the request. (That one uninformed person may be leading the team off a cliff.) “It starts with taking responsibility, gathering more information, reviewing the set process, developing a plan, and delivering on the request,” I said.

Ask for clarification or help

Perhaps the interim manager is overworked or unfamiliar with the department’s standard requirements for the document. Or, she is well-informed and sees a better way to prepare the deliverable. Many professionals are timid about asking for clarity or help for fear of inconveniencing others, or reprisal for not knowing everything, especially in the case of women. Step aside, ego! Asking for clarity or assistance is not only sensible, but it also showcases your confidence and ability to be efficient. Prepare by making a list of questions to ask—a step Jen said she and her team were taking.

Review your workflow process

Preventing rework and unnecessary time on projects can be avoided if everyone follows a workflow process. A workflow document should outline stages and tasks needed to arrive at a deliverable. If you do not have a workflow process, create one and review it annually.

Plan the work

Make a to-do list and rank the tasks by importance. Assign tasks based on your team member’s strengths. Set realistic deadlines. Manage distractions and stay updated with your team. Use a communication method that suits your team so that nothing falls through the cracks.

Knowing how to gather information and move a project forward creates collaborative opportunities, streamlines processes, fosters growth and happier workplace culture.

two dogs in a snowy setting

Hoshi and Beans taking a walk on a snowy New England day.

The day after offering my advice, Jen told me that she and her team thawed from the initial shock, rallied by asking their interim manager for more detail, reached out to other stakeholders for guidance, divvied up the work by the team members’ strengths, and planned how to best meet the looming deadline. Sometimes remote workers need to air out challenges and strategies during a lunchtime dog-walking meetup.

Thank you for reading this.

Maureen Joyce