Part Three: Dealing with Sparky

Take this quiz to see if Sparky reigns in your center.

1. Have you spent fewer than 10 hours in the last month on activities that fall under the heading of “strategic planning?”
2. Are you often pulled out of meetings (even by cell phone or pager) because of some urgent need?
3. Do you dread sitting at your desk because of the stacks of unfinished business or because you know it’s just a matter of a few minutes before someone will find you to meet an urgent need?
4. Do you think you need to get away from the center to do any “real work?”
5. Are you working on weekends or after-hours just to catch up?
6. Are you making excuses about why projects are delayed?
7. Are you unable to give individuals your full attention because of all the things you have to do?
8. Are you perpetually late for meetings?
9. Do you do several things at once without doing any of them well?

If you answered “yes” or “sometimes” to any of the questions, Sparky is operating in your center. Now, let’s get a hold on him.

Dealing with Sparky
What you can do about Sparky depends on your role in the organization.

If you’re the CEO, you may realize that Sparky keeps managers too busy with tactical tasks to think ahead. Here’s what you can do to harness the talent of your managers to plan for the success of your organization:

Emphasize the role of strategic planning.
Expect essential thinking from managers. The combination of their day-to-day knowledge of operations with your strategic direction is magic when they have time to put the two together.

Reward managers for thinking strategically.
Measure managers on their strategic vision, planning, and implementation. Let them know that you value their efforts to carry out your strategy.

Support managers’ needs and requirements to spend time planning.
Managers working most effectively will have only a percentage of their time rigidly scheduled. Most of the time, they will be available to both fight fires and think strategically. Support them in time management.

Provide training.
Ensure that managers are trained in managing their time, writing strategic plans, developing project plans, managing projects, and setting priorities.

Establish a corporate strategic planning process.
Help everyone in the organization speak the same strategic language by establishing a corporate-wide planning process.

Require your managers to align their strategic plans to the corporate plan.
When they present strategic plans and prospective solutions to you, help them see how the solutions do or do not fit into the strategy. Set aside time for managers to review all the strategic plans with each other.

Keep you finger on the pulse of strategic projects.
Establish periodic staff meetings to continually review project status, encouraging interdepartmental interaction and support.

If you’re a manager or supervisor, here’s what you can do:

Realize you represent two industries, and balance them both.
Think about it—you do two jobs at once. You work in a vertical industry—banking, insurance, high tech, healthcare, etc. You also work in the customer contact industry interacting with customers through telephone, face-to-face, e-mail, chat, or all of them. Build the ability to stay current in both of these industries into your time management plan.

Identify your job roles
Become keenly aware of how you spend your time. You may not realize how many tasks you perform. If you don’t know what take precedence in your work life, try listing all of your management “hats,” for example, “human performance manager,” “real-time service level manager,” “crisis manager,” “project manager,” “process manager,” “change manager,” “technology manager,” “financial manager,” “continual improvement manager,” “team builder,” and “professional developer.”

Assign a priority to each role. How important is it to wear each hat? Is your role as a coach most important? If so, give it a priority of “1.” If you don't know your priorities, work with the person to whom you report. Review the final list with the entire management team to confirm everyone has the same expectations.

List activities
List the required activities for each job role. Many activities are associated with each function. For example, human performance management includes all the activities surrounding setting clear expectations, giving consistent feedback, determining skill and knowledge needs, coaching, counseling, motivating, and supporting. This role is performed through day-to-day activities such as reviewing performance reports, giving performance feedback, monitoring calls, determining skill and knowledge needs.

Real-time service level management includes projecting call volume, forecasting staffing, scheduling, determining daily variances, monitoring of real time service level and historical analysis. Crisis management includes recognizing when a crisis is happening, putting an action plan in place to correct it and evaluating its cause.

The priority of the role will usually follow through to the activity. If “human performance management” is the highest priority role, most of the activities associated with performance management would also have a priority of “1.” Be careful on this one, however. Sometimes new projects have a lower priority than the roles to which they are related. For example, suppose you accepted a project to analyze the productivity and quality improvement during the previous six months of your contact center. Even though this project falls under the performance management header, it would have a lower priority than call monitoring, which is also under the performance management header.

Estimate the time it takes to complete each activity
Determine how much time is required to complete each activity, determine how often during the week each activity is done, and note whether a specific time needs to be scheduled (e.g. a team meeting is held every day at 8:30 a.m. for 15 minutes).

When possible, delegate
For each activity, ask “Should someone cover my team when I am involved in this activity?” Some activities, such as call monitoring, require your complete attention—and your team should always have access to the help it needs. Answer “yes” to any activities that require complete concentration. Answer “no” to activities that you can complete even if interrupted. Answer “maybe” to activities for which you prefer solitude but for which solitude is not a requirement.

Compute Time Requirement
Add together the total number of hours per month you have scheduled for yourself. Determine the monthly total for each activity and add each total together to determine a grand monthly total. For example, if an activity is done daily for 30 minutes, you are spending 11 hours per month. A five-hour activity that you engage in every other week is recorded as 10 hours per month (2 times 5 hours). If these are your only two activities, then you would have a grand monthly total of 21 hours per month (11 hours + 10 hours). Don't be amazed if your total exceeds even what Superman (or Superwoman) might be able to accomplish.

If you schedule yourself by the week, you can add your activity totals to determine your grand weekly total.

In Part Four we’ll describe what you can do with this analysis to keep Sparky from robbing you of your precious time.

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