I know, I know… You are looking at the title of this article and thinking that of course, everybody knows how to work systematically these days. You are probably thinking that this is one of the most redundant articles we have on our site. But do you really understand what it means to work systematically?
Let’s imagine a scenario with your kitchen at home. If you have been preparing and cooking for a dinner party, it is pretty easy to systematically clean up your kitchen afterwards. You have your own personal system for the order of your clean up: you know where the spice rack is, you have a preferred soak-then-wash system for the dishes, you even have a system for organizing leftovers! In no time at all, your kitchen is pristine. Surely, working systematically is pretty simple if you’re an organized person to begin with.
But working systematically within an organization is obviously a little different from cleaning up your own kitchen. First of all, as the parentheses in my title indicate, this article is mainly concerned about working with others. Now, if you are an introvert, “with” is one of the peskiest prepositions around. We aren’t talking about working under people, or around people, but with people.
Whether you work in a small organization or a large one, you should already know that collaborative teamwork does not always function smoothly. If you are the control freak type, this statement probably resonates even more for you. One of the difficulties of teamwork has to do with the fact that people in an organization fulfill different functions and work at different pace; yet, a lot of work these days are collaborative. Moving ahead on a project oftentimes does involve waiting for another component to come together at another department. Most companies today also juggle multiple projects and objectives simultaneously. And deadlines fluctuate. Under these conditions, working systematically becomes more of a challenge than when you have complete freedom to decide on your own order of work.
So how can you work systematically for the greatest efficiency and overall work satisfaction when working with others?
1. Be a fox with keen, keen ears
You’ve probably heard of the distinction between the fox and the hedgehog. The fox knows many things but none of them very well; the hedgehog knows only one thing and knows it deeply. In fact, the fox can be accused of not being very serious. But when you work in an organization, it is beneficial to cultivate a little bit of the fox’s synthesizing outlook.
Don’t get stuck in a tunnel vision about your own particular responsibility. Instead, listen well and try to understand how each team contributes to an integral part to a project. Try to understand the unique challenges each team faces. Listening well to the other people in your organization will help you to sync your own work to theirs, ensuring greater efficiency across the board. If you are a website developer, and you know that your customer service department is understaffed and overloaded for instance, you might try to work out a “Contact Us” page that efficiently redirects to some thoughtfully prepared answers to common questions. Good collaboration calls for a collaborative, synthesizing mind on everyone’s part.
2. Delegate tasks systematically
Delegating tasks in an intelligent fashion is one of the best ways to work systematically when working with others. On top of this, we suggest that you delegate systematically as well. What we mean by this is that after working at an organization for sometime, you should be able to get a sense of different people’s strengths and weaknesses. If you find that Michelle, an intern, is a wiz at infographics and Excel spreadsheets for instance, delegate all future work of the same nature to her. This helps everyone get into a rhythm and saves time in the process.
3. Prioritize the glitches in your company before you prioritize the task
Let’s say you just signed a contract with an important client, and there is an urgent deadline looming ahead. Many goal-achievers would focus singlemindedly on that deadline at the risk of causing undue stress on everyone around them.
Now, the thing is that every organization has an Achilles heel. I don’t care if you’re a 3-person operation or an established corporation. There is always a weak spot in the workflow. Maybe it has to do with the fact that the suppliers you work with have the lowest price but also delivery problems; maybe it is that your organizational design has a fundamental flaw. Whatever it is, when your company lands a big project, your first priority is to identify a chronic glitch, understand it, try to resolve it, or if need be, work around it for the time being.
4.Contribute to a culture of open and candid conversation.
You need a work culture that emphasizes transparency and honest communication in order to be able to identify weaknesses and strengths of your organization accurately as a team. Personally, the organizations I have worked at have really differed when it comes to this–I’ve worked in organizations that just recycle the party line over and over again for the sake of appearing to be proceeding according to plan, and I’ve worked in places where people actually talk honestly and give their surprisingly candid opinions about the company, about projects taken on, about how to proceed, etc. I can’t tell you what a fresh breath of air the latter is. This sort of honest communication among team members takes time and effort to build. But when it is achieved, it taps into a company’s most invaluable resources–constructive feedback from the people who know your organization most intimately.
To work systematically in an organization, you have to prioritize both the strengths and weaknesses of that organization with a synthesizing vision. Banal advice like “set your work priorities straight,” “identify the 3 more urgent tasks that day” do not really help if you fundamentally suffer from the mistaken notion that man is an island. Listen well and understand how your work is interconnected to the rest, be efficient about delegating tasks and finally, identify the real weakness of your company, These tips will help to improve the infrastructure within which you are able to work systematically and productively.
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