On second thought, don’t break it. Trade it in for a different kind of plate – I’ll explain.
Plates are flat but we put our projects, with different dimensions, priorities and timelines, onto the same surface. They can mingle together like the turkey gravy, cranberry sauce and mashed sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving. While putting those together on one fork may not be tragic, dropping projects onto the same pile can create confusion, delay and lost opportunities.
Using the “plate” for our to-dos is a two-dimensional fix for our four-dimensional problems. We need tiers, like those multilevel plates stacked with petits fours, little cookies and tiny tarts that we see on the buffet line. This metaphor only takes us so far, though. We won’t be successful if all we do is group seemingly like projects into different stacks. This is about how to first think about the assignments.
It’s a given that all assignments require us to operate in both the trenches and the wide-open skies. Vision and execution are sometimes difficult to balance but the big picture is not mutually exclusive of paying attention to the details.
With all that as the backdrop, I offer a top-line approach to evaluating what’s on your plate – the 4 R’s of Realigning Workload:
1. Risk – potential impact of doing, not doing
2. Range – short, medium, long term issues and influences
3. Requirements – data, time, money, personnel
4. Return on investment – financial, reputation, safety/security
Perspective and flexibility are crucial to finding success with this or any other methodology. The values placed on any of these components may depend on where you are in the organization, your responsibilities and their scope, and what you have to lose or gain. In addition, the way we approach various projects will require different combinations of thinking processes along a spectrum from concrete and narrow to critical and analytical to inspired and visionary.
In fast-paced environments, we’re often driven more by deadlines than the importance of the task or issue. Using the 4 R’s, we can make more informed decisions and apply resources more effectively. So let’s not be too put-off by a little process; it’s not a dirty word. Discipline is needed in finding creative solutions to our challenges and opportunities.
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