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The Smart Work Matrix: Helping You and Your Staff Work Smarter, Better and With Less Pain/Stress

Every organization has a long and varied list of projects, process, programs and coverage areas that require their team members to coordinate and support.

Often we see team members becoming extremely frustrated with various projects based on any number of experiences:

  • The unwillingness of attorneys or leaders to listen to us and/or cooperate with us.
  • Being treated badly by an attorney or leader.
  • We do not know how to move a project forward and we feel vulnerable.
  • We feel that the project is wasteful of their time.
  • We believe a project should be done differently but can’t get buy-in from attorneys.
  • We believe that the project is being led badly or incompetently by an attorney leader and we don’t know what to do.

And the list goes on and on.

However the reality, more often than not, is that many coordinators, managers and directors use the same orientation and execution process for each and everything they do.  This inability to adjust to the nature of the different projects and to know what a winning orientation for each project is likely to be, produces an incredible amount of stress and frustration and leads to a significant amount of failure and professional pain.

If we can evaluate these projects, jobs, programs on an individual basis and come to a simple understanding of the nature of each and what a winning plan would look like, I think we can increase our professional performance and minimize our stress and pain.

So here’s my suggestion:

Use the blank matrix which is attached (slide 3) and fill in your projects, etc where you think they should go.  Use this basis:

>  Potential Value – consider the assignment based on its ability to contribute business to the firm and/or build important relationship(s).

>  Your ability (that is, will you be allowed) to drive the project or provide innovation to the project.  This is not do you want to, does it need it.  It is will you be allowed to.  If you don’t know, ask more experienced people how its worked in the past.

Once you plot your projects, use the matrix to identify the following three areas associated with any task, project or program in the associated quadrant:

1.  What should your orientation for that project be?

2.  What defines your process for execution?

3.  What is the central success factor for the project?

As you put your various projects on the matrix, you will want to consider the recommended approach we make.  Let me go over each quadrant’s suggestions:

The Northwest Quadrant

The projects, tasks and activities that set in this quadrant are characterized by the potential for better than average ability to generate either new revenue or build relationships while having a very limited ability for marketing managers or coordinators to drive them or provide any innovation to them.

The appropriate orientation for these is:

1.  Your entire focus should be on Execution; not adding value, not forcing it in a direction.  Most likely, the attorneys and leadership just want it done and aren’t looking for anything but the project to get done.

2.  Your execution process will center around a very formal execution plan.  For our team, we have execution plans based on a planning model that we use to set up projects.  Once those are set in place, everything flows out of that plan.  We don’t deviate from it and we spend no time trying to add to it.

3.  The success and quality of these projects in the NE quadrant is a function of your experience.  If you’ve done many of these, you know the game, you’ve seen it before and understand how it will go.  If you don’t have the experience, then recruit a team member who has.  Ask them to meet with you on a regular basis (weekly at first) to review how the project is going and what execution steps you are taking.  Your experienced partner will more likely keep you on the straight and narrow.

The Northeast Quadrant

These projects are often what every marketing person dreams about.  It has great potential value and you have a sense that you will be a valuable part of the project.  However you need to be quite sober around that second expectation.  The below orientation should help you with it.

1.  Your orientation should be aggressive and you should be trying to think one step ahead so that you can add value along the way.

2.  Your execution process revolves around the attorney champion of the project.  Whatever he/she says (or you convince them of) is how you move.  You suggest a process, etc and wait for them to consider, edit and/or approve.

3.  The quality and success of this project is dependent on the trust and partnership you have with the attorney champion.  You should work hard to ask questions that will reveal his/her viewpoints, objectives, concerns for the project and then provide solutions around each of those.  Please note:  your ideas should be based on the words/orientations of the attorney champion.  Do not start with your thoughts; always start with Q/A of the attorney and then bring them responses.

The Southwest Quadrant

Here the projects offer minimal hope for significant value for the shareholders.  Additionally, no one is looking for you to do anything but make it happen or make it go away. So then:

1.  Your orientation should be first to see if you can delegate this project to the most appropriate place.  If you can outsource, please do,  If it’s a survey, see if HR or some other admin group has the majority of the data and send it to them.  Additionally, be passive in your efforts here.  Only act when you are asked to act or when timing dictates that you act.  As you know, all projects are subject to change from the attorneys, so you should minimize the amount of opportunities for those changes, since there is little opportunity for them to turn a low value project into a high value project.

2. Your execution process is to get attorney input and do it.  Don’t interpret, embellish or take it to the next level (save that for the Northeast Quadrant).

3. The success of these project will be based on your ability to get attorney input at the appropriate time and no sooner.  If you don’t know what they want and you need to act, ask and do whatever they say.

The Southeast Quadrant

These are your worst nightmares.  Nobody cares about those and has any idea what they want.  They expect you to figure everything out and when/if it gets done they won’t care that it got done.

1.  Your initial orientation should be to ask a leader if in fact these task/project justifies using firm resources.  See if they will nix it.  If the project has to go forward then,

2.  Your execution orientation should be to get it done with a minimal amount of effort and resources.  Do not waste your extra efforts / creativity on these (save yourself for anything in the Northern quadrants).

3.  The project success will be dependent on an execution which is simple and speedy.  If you are challenged to figure this out, seek help from your supervisor or a senior member from your team.

Attached are the slides; a worksheet and a reference Smart Work Matrix.  See what you think.

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