We do favors for each other all the time. Those favors don’t have to be reciprocal. If I do a favor for you, I’m pretty sure I can ask for something (help or a favor) in the future. Or, the other person will pay it forward in some way.
Sometimes, I receive requests for book testimonials, reviews, that sort of thing. I choose which requests I can do. And, I try to finish those requests fast. Book production is not a linear progression. I don’t want to make people wait for me.
I find it easiest to finish my work when people tell me what, how, and when they want it. A foreword of less than 500 words? Sure. Fill out this form for a testimonial? Sure, as long as it’s a form and not a generic piece of paper.
I recently received a request where I had to fill in the book name, the author name, and all of my information. I declined that request because it would have taken me minutes and back-and-forth to fulfill the request.
Minutes, you might ask. You didn’t spend minutes?
No, I didn’t. It was a favor. When I need to spend minutes instead of seconds on a favor, I decline. I can only choose what to spend my time on. I can’t choose other people’s actions.
That’s when it occurred to me: if you make the favor request easy for people, they are more likely to do you that favor. (Yes, when I realized that, I had a “Duh” moment.)
It’s the same thing at work. If you work on a software team and the builds take a long time, how often would you want to spend building? Instead, what if you (or the entire team) takes a few minutes or even an hour to refactor the build so it takes less time? Everyone finds their work becomes easier. Same thing with automated tests.
What about leadership or management? How can you make it easy for people to do the right thing? That might take the form of:
- Asking for data that means something and is easy to collect.
- Offer reinforcing feedback so people know when they’ve done something you would like to see more of.
- Streamlining any policy or process so it’s easy for people to finish work.
I bet you can think of more.
One of my clients had a deployment group that acted as a brake and bottleneck on all the software teams. In order to deploy, each team had to justify their changes. The deployment group had several problems the previous year, so everyone understood why. And, the teams had fixed those problems. Now, the bottleneck made life difficult, not easy. And, the bottleneck didn’t make the work better.
They decided to run an experiment and “allow” one team to deploy by themselves. The team took the time to mistake-proof their work. They deployed. No problems.
Slowly, the deployment team “allowed” other teams to deploy by themselves. Finally, the last team had their turn. This was the team that had the original big problems. It was a non-event.
When we make it easy on ourselves, and mistake-proof our work, we often make it easier for other people.
That is the question this week: How can you make it easy?
- When Do You Choose the Safe Path?
- What Can You Learn from the Experience?