When you can’t get enough resources to deliver what is expected


Precarious Lead; Wall Street, UT

The challenge: Resources are cut AND work is added

This problem has been coming up a lot recently in my coaching hour conference calls, so I wanted to share some advice here.

They way this is often stated is:

“My company has downsized, but now my team has been given the work of other teams that no longer exist. We’re expected to handle the extra work, but we were already overloaded. There is no one to take on the new work, yet management is expecting us to to get it done.”

Don’t undermine yourself with tireless work

It’s important to realize that simply taking on the unreasonable workload by asking everyone to work 24×7 is not the right approach. You need to remember that your company can absorb an unlimited amount of work from you without really noticing or caring about the impact it is having on you and your team.

If you keep everyone working around the clock and manage to get most of the work done, you are only proving that you don’t need more resources.

You need a strategy to re-define the workload and share the problem.

Here are some steps that will help you.

1. Determine if there is a new way to do the work

If, for example, you team was supporting 50 customers with 15 people, and now you are being asked to support 150 customers with 15 people, it’s clear that doing the support the same way will not work. But are there systems you could put in place to scale how you do the work? Automation, self service, better documentation, community support functionality, etc.

Your management may not be expecting you to simply do more work, but to re-invent the way the work is done.

It’s always important to think through this step and find ways to improve the process if possible.

But… if you’ve exhausted those possibilities and the workload is simply un-doable, then you need to move to the next step of changing the conversation about the work to reflect the reality.

2. Show the size of the hole you are in

Sometimes executives will assign a pile of work and have no idea what is actually involved in doing it.

If they give you an impossible workload on top of an already challenging workload, if they do not see the reality of the situation, they will expect that you can simply absorb the extra work.

To show the reality, create something that looks kind of like this chart below.

Show the actual state vs. the desired state. And if you have data about competitors it’s helpful to include it.

By showing this picture you are communicating in a credible way that there is more to be done to achieve the outcome they are asking for than they realize.

Status Reality

3. Share the problem

I see leaders often put all the pressure on themselves to try to do the impossible without the necessary resources, and feel like they are personally failing when it can’t be done.

This is not your problem alone.

This is a choice that the company needs to make.

Your job is to shine the spotlight on clearly defined choices.

The idea you need to communicate is that this un-doable workload is putting the business at risk. “WE need to collectively decide what we are willing to tolerate in terms of deliverables and risk, and agree on a set of doable outcomes and priorities”.

The way to do this is to provide choices and options.

4. Show the true cost of options..

You need to give the management choices for different levels of outcomes that have different levels of cost.

Create a chart that shows different levels of investment with their associated outcomes. Then engage your executives in choosing the level. If they choose a low funding level, they will get the amount of work that’s possible at that level.

OK, if you don’t increase my budget, we can add one item, but we can’t add most of the competitive features. If that’s the funding choice you make, this is what you will get.

If they want great, complete, best in class work, or very low risk, they can get that only with a higher level of funding.

The chart looks something like this:

Budget Options

Don’t set yourself up for failure. Don’t accept the line of reasoning that you are just supposed to be able to absorb an unlimited amount of extra work with the same number of people, and keep delivering at the same level and scope of quality, excellence and completeness.

If you show the reality and share the problem, you are still building credibility by showing that you can do the complete job, but you are not shooting yourself in the foot by signing up to do it without enough resources.

If you are facing this issue, you are not alone. This is a very common leadership challenge, and it’s up to you to navigate it in such a way that you can create success for the business without killing yourself and your team in the process!

I talk more about this in chapter 5 of my book MOVE: Resource Reality. That chapter ends with, “What if you show them all the choices and they don’t give you the extra money, and tell you to do it anyway?”. That leads to Chapter 6: Don’t sign up for the impossible.

You can get your copy of MOVE or download a preview:

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my facebook page.

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About Patty
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook

Ruthless Priorities and Effectiveness



This month’s Professional Development webinar was on the topic of Ruthless Priorities and Effectivnessk.

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Get the webinar

If you missed it you can download the recording.

Members of my FORWARD program for Professional Development can download this webinar for free.
Join now and get this webinar and all the webinars for free!

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JOIN NOW AND USE CODE: RUTHLESS
AT CHECKOUT TO SAVE $30 ON YOUR MEMBERSHIP

Get more important stuff done and feel more sane!

This is a useful webinar to download if you:

  • Have an unrealistic workload and need a better way to deal with it
  • Need to find a way to choose the right work when everything is a top priority
  • Have trouble saying NO and tend to try do everything that is asked
  • Need to push back on your boss, but still build your credibility
  • Not feel like you are letting others down when you focus on important work

Here is what we talked about:

Ruthless Priorities

No one is helping you: Defining and sticking to Ruthless Priorities is one of the most important and hardest things we are asked to do as business leaders. It also sets the most successful business leaders apart. But it’s not easy because not only will no one help you do this, most people will fight you, and want you to keep doing everything.

What’s really most important? We talked about how to choose what is truly most important (compared to everything that is important), and how to negotiate a doable workload with your boss and your peers.

Credibility

It’s important to maintain, if to not actually build, your credibility by the work you choose to do and finish. Getting a reputation for getting important things done builds your credibility.

I shared techniques for having the right conversations with your boss and peers to build your credibility and achieve a realistic workload — and actually finish the most important things — And feel more sane in the process.

How to Say NO to your Boss (and be OK):

When you feel like you can’t get everything done that your boss is asking, it feels scary and you might feel guilty, or at risk. We talked about how to turn this around and use Ruthless Priorities to work with your boss on defining and staging the most important work to be done first, so you come out strong and focused.

Trying to do everything and failing is not success. Getting the most important stuff done is success.

Communicating:

It’s not just your boss that wants you do stuff. Lot’s of other people make demands on your time too. The guilt comes in when you feel like you are letting people down. We covered techniques for pushing back, but eliminating the let-down.

It’s important to never just drop requests in silence. Prepare a communication plan to describe your priorities and why they matter. Keeping a list of all requests, with noted Ruthless Priorities vs. everything else is a wonderful communication tool to build credibility too.

Achieve a Realistic Workload

It’s important to examine your workload and do an assessment of what is realistic. You’ll never get it all done, so you need a plan for dealing with the work and eliminating the worry.

I shared techniques and also included worksheets and templates in this webinar to prepare conversations and negotiations about your Ruthless Priorities that will build your credibly and cause people to back off and give you some breathing room.

Saying yes to everything, and trying to do everything is actually a lazier way of working than setting Ruthless Priorities and sticking to them.

It’s hard to do the strategic thinking, negotiating, communicating — and to have the guts to set and stick to Ruthless Priorities. That’s why it sets the strongest leaders apart.

Want some help?

To get some help with this and learn the specific ideas and techniques that we talked about, download the webinar: Ruthless Priorities and Effectiveness, now.

Members: Download the webinar for free.
Non Members: You can purchase this individual webinar or podcast (links below).

There are some other really useful webinars in the Member Library related to this topic.

Members get these additional webinars for free:

So if you are not yet a member, you might as well join and get them all for free!

Let me be your mentor

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Members of the Azzarello Group FORWARD program basically get me as their mentor.

Every month you get new insights and tools in the form of these webinars, as well as the chance to call into a monthly members-only coaching hour where you can get direct personal coaching from me.

People tell me that membership gives them a totally new way of thinking about their career, getting promotions, solving difficult problems with bosses, peers, employees, and other annoying people, communicating better, being more influential, becoming a stronger leader, and enjoying their work more. I love to hear this, and I love to help!

If you join now, you’ll not only get this webinar, but all the other webinars in the Member Library.

AND you’ll get the opportunity to participate in monthly Coaching Hour conference calls with me.
Check out what we talk about.

AND as a member you’ll get to download your copy of the Career Year of action Guide (a $30 value) for free.

Membership to my FORWARD program for professional development is a great resource (and a steal at $179 for a whole year) to help you advance your career.

Join Now
Join Now.

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USE CODE: RUTHLESS
AT CHECKOUT TO SAVE $30 ON YOUR MEMBERSHIP

Other Options:

Purchase just this webinar ($19.99)

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Purchase just this podcast ($9.99)


ABOUT PATTY:

patty blog image
Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor.
She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

Rise_CVR_3D_300

Free eBook Download

Negotiating Priorities & Conflicts



This month’s webinar was on the topic of Negotiating Priorities & Conflicts.

If you missed it, you can download the recording below.

Negotiating Priorities

This is a very useful webinar to download if:

  • You feel like you have an impossible workload
  • Your team has been downsized and your workload has been upsized!
  • You are serving multiple masters who all think you only serve them
  • Your boss keeps changing the rules and expectations
  • You can’t get top priorities done because of random emergencies and demands

Biggest sources of stress

Unreasonable expectations, conflicting priorities and not enough resources cause a huge amount of stress.

It always helps to remember:

YOUR JOB = Your job description PLUS dealing with all the crap that gets in the way of doing your job description.

Once you come to terms with the fact that your job is both things, you have a lot more control over how you work.

In the I webinar told several stories about how I and others have changed the game when faced with an impossible workload.

Welcome to being a leader

Knowing how to change the work to make it doable is a very important part of being a leader.

You need to negotiate and lead the right conversations

It doesn’t work to try to do everything that is asked of you and die trying.

Remember, not all requests are equal – you have to figure out what to do first and best, and then convince others.

You need to find a way to get the right, doable amount of work done, while preserving your credibility, and moving the business forward.

The most successful leaders find a way to deal with all the work, but not necessarily DO all the work.

In the webinar we talked about how to make sure you negotiate the room to be successful on what matters most – to the business and your career.

Credibility & Conversation

A common question is “How do you negotiate work away without looking like you are a slacker or you are complaining?”

There are ways to articulate the situation so that your credibility actually increases.

For starters, it’s always very important to be able to articulate what you ARE doing and why it is so important. This alone will deflect many distractions and conflicts.

It’s also important to be able to show the context of the bigger picture to help your boss or many masters see where the new problems and demands fit.

It’s critical to set expectations and be very clear with yourself, your boss, your team, your peers, and your extra bosses. That’s a lot of conversation!

By driving these conversations you can focus your efforts on the right things, defend against all the crap that threatens to throw you off course, gain support, and build credibility in the process.

What the webinar covered:

The webinar covered six types of conversations which you need to get comfortable having in the right way to make sure that you, your team and the business are focused, executing and truly aligned on the right priorities.

  • Ruthless Priorities: What you ARE Doing and Why
  • Changes and Conflicts: Later vs. NO
  • Multiple Masters: Creating context and room
  • Advise your executive: Recommending the right work plan
  • I’ve got your back: Negotiating and aligning
  • WE have a problem: Driving a team process

Worksheets

The worksheets included in this webinar are:

  • Ruthless Priorities Conversation
  • List for Later
  • Team Problem conversation template
  • Multiple Masters – context template

Get the webinar now

Member Free Download

If you are a member of Azzarello Group, you can download the webinar for free.

Or Purchase

If you are not a member, you can: purchase this webinar,

or you can become a member and get the webinar for free..

If you are tempted to purchase this webinar, that’s great.

But you might want to consider getting a membership to Azzarello Group — it’s a much better deal.

With a membership, you can get access to everything in the member library for a whole year for just $179.

BECOME A MEMBER NOW

As a member, just around this topic alone, you can also get additional webinars for free on:

So you might as well join and get them all for free!

Additional benefits for members

Take a look through the Member Library and see all the other great webinars and resources you get too.

Plus, as a member, you get live coaching from me in monthly Coaching Hour conference calls where you can ask your own questions.

Become a Member

BECOME A MEMBER NOW
Membership a great resource (and a steal at $179 for a whole year) to help you advance your career.

Other Options:
Purchase only this webinar ($19.99) and get the podcast, presentation, and worksheets.
Purchase just this podcast ($9.99)


ABOUT PATTY:

patty blog image
Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor.
She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

Rise_CVR_3D_300

Free eBook Download

Negotiating Ruthless Priorities


negotiating ruthless priorities
Ruthless Priorities, which I often talk about as a concept, is a wonderful way to focus your time and energy, but perhaps even more important and valuable, are the conversations that having clear Ruthless Priorities allow.

Let’s face it – just because you decide to think and work more strategically, doesn’t mean the rest of the world will back off and let you! All the demands, pressures, and crises will still come at you.

You need a strategy to defend your time and protect your ability to get your Ruthless Priorities done.

New Conversations

1. Later, not NO
2. I’ve got your back
3. WE have an issue (vs. I have a problem)
4. We’ll do this one BEST

Ruthless Priority Review

Before the conversations, let me just take a minute to review what I mean by Ruthless Priorities.

No Risk:

Ruthless Priorities are those few (1-3 at most) things that you refuse to put at risk. You get them done. It doesn’t mean that you don’t also work on other things, but it means that you get your Ruthless Priorities done first. And best. No matter what. You do not tolerate risk on your Ruthless Priorities.

Some Risk:

This implies that you DO tolerate risk on other things. You may do them slower, later, less completely, less scope/depth, outsource them, lower quality… You make this choice on purpose because you are refusing to put your Ruthless Priorities at risk at all.

(There is a whole chapter in my book, RISE, on Ruthless Priorities.)

Great Conversations (brought to you by Ruthless Priorities)

It is truly a magical thing when you, your team, and your manager (at any level) can get aligned on Ruthless priorities and have the right conversations.

1.“Later,” not “NO”

When you are heads down succeeding on a Ruthless Priority and anyone — your boss, a peer, or a generally annoying colleague comes to you with an emergency, you don’t have to have the uncomfortable conversation of saying “NO”.

You can say, “Later”. You can say:

I am working on this critical priority, which I think you’ll agree is vital to the business. I will do your thing as soon as I get to the next milestone on this.

“Later” feels better than “NO” to you and them.

2. “I’ve got your back”

The real magic happens when you and your boss agree on your ruthless priorities. This is really what alignment is about.

Alignment is not about everyone saying the same thing is important in the room at an offsite, it’s about everyone making the same decision when pressures come to throw you off course.

The wonderful conversation I have heard between employee and boss who have agreed on Ruthless Priorities is this:

Employee: I am getting nervous because I feel like my ruthless priority is at risk. A sales person has told me that we will lose a billion dollar deal if I don’t do this other task right now which will take me a week. If I do that, I’ll fail to complete the ruthless priority on time.

Boss: Yes, we agreed that is the ruthless priority and we can’t put that at risk. I’ll talk to the sales rep, and if it’s truly urgent, I’ll find another way to help him. You can’t stop what you are doing. I’ve got your back.

I get a small thrill every time I see this happen in practice!

3.”WE have an issue”

Every once in awhile even Ruthless Priorities pile up on each other, and risk ensues.
Now what.

One recent example was that I was working with a customer service team, and one of the support reps said. “This won’t work for me. What if I get 3 critical problems in at the same time — a critical customer problem is a ruthless priority for us, and I can’t handle 3 at once.”

Alignment and Conversations

Conversation #1. You tell all the customers that you are working on it right now, but you don’t tell them all that you will finish at the same time.

Conversation #2. You tell your boss that you have 3 critical customer issues that you can’t work on at once, so there is risk on your Ruthless Priorities. Some customers may get angry, and say you are not being responsive.

WE agreed that critical customer issues are alway Ruthless Priorities. This changes the conversation from “I can’t serve 3 customers at once” to “WE have a resource issue at this moment”.

This gives your boss the opportunity to proactively call the customers or re-assign other resources.

If your Ruthless are at risk — when you are aligned with your boss, you are not alone in dealing with it. It lets you have the right conversation.

4. “We’ll do this BEST”

Let’s look at another example. I was working with a marketing team who had a Sales Kickoff, an Analyst Meeting and a Product Launch stack up on them in the same week.

They did not have enough people to a stellar job at all three of those things. The CMO felt personally responsible to do the impossible.

So we talked through Ruthless Priorities.

When you have too many things that feel equally super-important and your can’t prioritize, another Ruthless Priorities trick is this:

For each thing on your list to instead of asking, “Which is most important?”, ask: “How bad is it if I fail?”
A true priority will emerge.

In this case, the sales force was in a steady state.
The product launch while super-important, was not pivotal to the business at this moment.
But the company story was a mess. And this was pressuring the stock price and the customer confidence.

If the analysts did not leave the event materially more confident, the new product and a ready sales force would still be climbing out of a credibility hole.

There it is…

The Ruthless Priority is the Analyst Meeting (no risk: do this BEST).

Then, while the Product Launch and Sales Kick off are still super-important, and we need to get them done on time — we’ll tolerate some risk. (some risk: get these done, but don’t sign up for spectacular).

So the Ruthless Priority became: We need to hit the Analyst meeting out of the park.

That is the one we will not put at risk at all, and on the other two, we’ll do the job, but not at the same level of excellence. They got it all done, and they nailed the Ruthless Priority.

Clarity on the “can’t-fails”

You could imagine a different scenario where the analysts were status quo, but product launch itself was the pivotal thing; or different one where the sales force was going through a critical transformation. Then one of the these would have got the no-risk, do it best treatment.

Or…If the whole company agreed that 2 out of 3 were vitally important, must be best, can’t fail, Ruthless Priorities, it would clearly point to the need hire some contractors to get through the peak.

Give your business the right conversations about priorities.

By setting Ruthless Priorities and being clear about them, (and the resources they require), it allows you to have the right business conversations, and negotiate, and truly get aligned (everyone acts the same when pressure is applied) on the priorities.

The other key benefit of this approach is that you start to become known for getting the really important things done, reliably.

Was this useful?

If you found this article useful, please help me share it with others and encourage them to subscribe to this Blog for free.


About Patty
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

Rise_CVR_3D_300

Free eBook Download

How Ruthless Priorities Drive Strategy


Every month I do a webinar on a topic of business leadership
as part of my membership program.

This month’s webinar was on Ruthless Priorities & Strategy.
(Get invited to future webinars)

If you missed it, you can download the podcast!

Free Download

If you are a member of Azzarello Group, you can download the webinar for free.

Purchase

If you are not a member,
you can: purchase the webinar, or
Learn about membership.

This is a good webinar to download if you:

  • Are on the hook to implement a key business strategy and want to reduce risk
  • Want to focus and motivate your team on the right critical tasks
  • Have struggled to define meaningful measures that ensure progress
  • Need a way to push back on non-strategic (but not-optional work)
  • Find yourself in bad meetings with too much talking vs. doing

What makes strategies succeed?

The main reason companies fail to execute their strategy is because they don’t effectively prioritize doing the right strategic stuff.

In this webinar I shared things I have observed and learned both from my own organizations as well as the many client organizations I currently work with to effectively implement their strategy.

All organizations have non-optional, annoying, and distracting work that comes both from internal pressures, and customer issues and demands.

Successful execution is all about being realistic about what you have to do and what it will require, and also being realistic and prepared for all the stuff that tries to throw you off course.

Focus and Accountability

Many organizations fail to choose and measure the right things the right way. They choose things that are easy to measure vs. things that actually predict and ensure progress.

We talked about how to understand and define the right mid-term measures, control points, and outcome-oriented measures that will move you forward and eliminate risk.

Doing vs. Talking

We also covered the common habits of poor communication, bad meetings, ineffective collaboration and unclear decision making that result in lots of unproductive talking. I shared some practical techniques to combat this “talking” and move your team into focused, active doing instead.

Here’s what the webinar covers:

How to stay focused on the key drivers of your strategy:

  • Define and budget time for the right Ruthless Priorities
  • Defend against urgent demands that pull you off course
  • Deal with inneffecitve collaboration (talking!) that stalls progress
  • Set the right measures that will ensure progress and reduce risk

Worksheets included

There are some great worksheets for this webinar which include:

  • Time & resource budgets for Ruthless Priorities and distractions
  • Tools to defend against non-strategic demands and time-wasters
  • Template for defining effective mid-term measures

Get the webinar now

If you are tempted to purchase this webinar, that’s great.

But you might want to consider getting a membership to Azzarello Group — it’s a much better deal.

With a membership, for just $179 for a whole year, you can get access to everything in the member library.

BECOME A MEMBER NOW

If you are a member, just on this topic alone, you can also get related webinars for free on:

  • Good Strategy, Bad Strategy (expert interview Dr. Richard Rumelt)
  • Negotiating Your Workload
  • Developing Strategic Habits
  • Is your Strategy And Good? (expert interview with Bob Kaplan)
  • Leading a High-perfoming Team

.
So you might as well join and get them all for free!

Additional benefits for members

Take a look through the Member Library and see all the other great webinars and resources you get too. For your membership fee of $179 you will be able to access everything in the Member Library for a full year!

Plus you get live coaching from me in monthly Coaching Hour conference calls where you can ask your own questions.

Membership a great resource (and a steal at $179) to help you advance your career.

Become a Member

BECOME A MEMBER NOW

Other Options:

Download the webinar with worksheets and templates
Download just the podcast