As a change cheerleader I can tell you that most organizations whether a team, department, or college already know what needs to be different. What’s difficult is putting the resources towards exploring the idea of making a change. Most organizations rarely take an in-depth look into what’s NOT working and explore making a change and how to shift resources. Uttering the dreaded six words (“we’ve always done it that way”) may stereotype folks into a category of employee or department who is out-of-touch with the ever changing world around you. Tradition is respectable, but comfort can lead to disorganization.
At USM, change is all around us. Sticking with the status quo is easy but shouldn’t be a default when it leads to inefficiency. We all have some responsibility into making sure our time and energy is being used wisely. Not only do we need to have a growth mindset but a mindset for change is required as well.
Here are some suggestions below for exploring change on a small scale:
As a department you can:
- Check-in with your employees once or twice a year:
- What tasks are they doing on a daily basis (ask for a basic overview)? Do these tasks still make sense today? Is the time spent on the task meeting the units end goals? Consider using the 5 whys problem solving method when discussing each process.
- Do they have any ideas for streamlining their processes?
- What are their pain points with the processes they currently complete?
- Do they understand their role and value to the organization? Establishing Employee Engagement by Defining Roles and Expressing Value is extremely important.
- Have a process-review meeting once or twice a year during a slower week or month. This meeting is about identifying painful processes and getting feedback and ideas from your colleagues so that you can address them over the following semester or year. Ask these questions:
- Are there processes that are no longer necessary but are still being completed?
- Could your processes be reduced with training, software, or basic technology tools?
- Is the process more complicated than it needs to be?
- What are other departments or units doing to solve the same need? This is a good opportunity for collaboration and process sharing between departments.
- Have a product/services review meeting at least once a year and ask yourself these questions:
- Are all of our products and services still benefiting our students and clients? Do we have a lot of people taking advantage of them? For example, if one service isn’t being utilized widely and creates a lot of work for your staff- then maybe it’s time to explore discontinuing that service.
- Could we utilize our budget and staff resources in a more focused way that better benefits our students and/or the University?
As an individual you can:
- Bring process issues or time-consuming tasks to the attention of your supervisor. Just make sure that they are willing to engage with you in advance. Also, don’t forget to bring ideas that could streamline the process as well.
- Ask questions. Is this task, project, or service I’m doing still important or a good use of my time? If you don’t understand the value of the work and why it’s needed- it’s time to ask the question.
- As you see processes, services, and projects that don’t make sense, speak up and bring it to someone’s attention. Give suggestions for improvements without feeling the need to own it.
- Ask for training or software if you think it will make a big impact and reduce your time spent on manual time-consuming tasks. Time is money and sometimes a basic technology tool is more cost effective than spending hours completing a task manually.
This year take a step into making things simpler for yourself and your organization. There are many ways that you can as a department or individual make positive change.
Reduce what doesn’t make sense and focus more on what does. Lastly, don’t be that person getting caught saying, “We’ve always done it that way.”