Risk Management – Information Overwhelm
Whilst technology has been a part of our business lives for so long, organisations and their teams struggle with managing the sheer volume of information we receive daily.
Recently I worked with a sales team experiencing overwhelm with several aspects of the programs they used on a daily basis.
With technology at our fingertips, sales teams in particular are expected to be able to quickly and easily respond to emails, they have smart phones right? They also need to be able to analyse sales reports and customer data quickly and easily so they can focus on making sales.
The team had technical skills, meaning product/industry knowledge, the foundation of the reason they were employed, but not the Microsoft office skills needed to be able to meet the reporting and analysis requirements of their business.
The challenge for the organisation wasn’t money, it was speed.
For every minute a team member was on Excel trying to work out who bought what last month before a sales call, or determining how close to budgets they were, they weren’t selling or supporting customers.
There is an old saying, “Time is Money”. This organisation recognised that the time you lose not being able to do something equates to lost sales (lost money). Rather than sending the team off to a generic Microsoft Excel session hoping to “fix” the problem, they recognised a better investment in their team’s performance and sanity lay in having a specialist come in identify and focus on what they specifically needed to know, as opposed to just learning “stuff”.
The process to address the overwhelm consisted of four steps that any executive can activate with their team.
If you don’t know what the problem is, how can you fix it? Often when we are “in” our “stuff” we can’t see what is happening. It isn’t until someone externally shines a light on things that what you need to do becomes a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious). It might be someone from another team or department or an external expert. Once you identify what needs to be fixed then you can move onto the next step.
In my twenty plus years of working in adult education, one of the common mistakes I see organisations make is to NOT collaborate. I’ve seen new software that will save a company millions of dollars on paper in travel costs not take into consideration the need to collaborate with staff resulting in the project costing additional money instead of saving millions!
The collaboration process engages team members in a discussion of the identified challenge and seeking potential solutions. The benefit of this process cannot be underestimated. It creates a sense of ownership of the solution and ensures the team feel consulted and part of the solution and not dictated to. It also provides a great opportunity to gather insights, ideas and knowledge from others that can contribute to the solution.
Once we have identified the problem and collaborated on ideas and solutions, the next step is to establish, What’s Next? This may be as simple as “tweaking” an existing process or it could require more investment (time and/or money) to shift the situation. It may require bringing in external specialists to consult, train or coach the team to achieve a faster outcome. With this client we organised facilitated programs with pre-session accountability and post session one on one coaching opportunities.
Next is to deliver the solution to resolve the challenge or problem. As part of this step, it is also important that a framework is established for ongoing team discussion, such as a check in at regular team meetings, to keep the issue top of mind and avoid falling back into overwhelm as workloads alter or new team members are onboarded. For my client it was as simple as starting a dialogue that they could then use to drive ongoing conversations.
With so much electronic communication and interaction, the simple process of taking time out to Identify, Collaborate, Establish and Resolve the overwhelm can increase productivity and performance, strengthen team dynamics and also demonstrates the intangible value of having a team who work together to achieve organisational goals, rather than separately to achieve their own.
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