To go from fire fighting to proactive work

Being a leader often means that the days are filled with long meetings, activities to support your coworkers, fill out reports, but above all dealing with urgent matters. The opportunity to develop the organization is rare, as there is not enough time to sit down to think and plan ahead, simply said – to work proactive. This is everyday life for most of the leaders today. The complexity and the rate of change is constantly increasing in our organizations. The consequences become more and more obvious for the operational work in the form of adaption and dealing with urgent matters.

One possible, explanation for the fact that urgent matters take over more and more is that they should have been handled by yesterdays’ strategy and planning. With other words, what we did not manage to solve and work with in a proactive way will after a while become so urgent that it must be resolved in a firefighting mode. If your company did not have the strength to start the work with e.g., product innovation, digitalization, electrification, or sustainability in time, the pressure from the market would gradually increase until acute dealing becomes necessary.

Everything ends up being done in a hurry and more and more initiatives are being generated from above that are to be added to existing workload, leading to a more reactive mode. The proactive way of working suffers as there is no time left to be just proactive, which leads to even more fire extinguishing work.

In that way, many of us end up in a squirrel wheel consisting of a growing amount of workload that tend to never be done. Is the situation recognizable? Relieve yourself by support your coworkers to prioritize and plan their own work. Make meetings more efficient and create a structure that frees up time. Break down your activities in smaller packages that can be completed in a relatively short time and with less effort. Lower the bar to get started and get things done – it will ensure energy to keep going to the next step.

In other words:

  • Plan and schedule all reoccurring meeting that you hold for the rest of the year by creating a yearly meeting clock.
  • Separate strategic meetings from operative meetings – if you mix strategic and operative questions the operative questions and acute topics will get the higher priority
  • Schedule coaching of all your coworkers to ensure proactivity in the meeting clock with a good frequency.
  • Create a standard agenda for meetings where everything besides what is necessary and is about taking decisions are left out. Is there important information, take it orally. Stick to the multidiscipline and make sure to avoid long discussions.
  • Do not spend time on creating a meeting protocol as few – if even anyone reads them. Document instead what is decided in a decision and create an activity log with who is responsible and deadlines and make sure to make it available for everyone.
  • Break behaviors where coworkers “delegate upwards” and ask you as a leader about solutions. Coach them instead to come up with their own solutions and stimulate them to involve others to develop action plans.
  • Use the time you free up to work proactively with strategic activities.
  • Break down these strategic activities to shorter and low intense activities into work packages so they can be completed within a quarter of a year with 1-2 hours of work per week.

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