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Work Harder, Not Smarter

I am all for great tools and processes that increase efficiency of work, facilitate better accuracy, allow for repeatable results, so on and so forth. But sometimes they simply do not fit.  Yes, I just said better is not always good.  Why?  Spending time trying to improve tools or processes on short turnaround projects or tasks is usually detrimental to the goals at hand.

I have known several individuals who focus more on the tool than the deliverable. In one of those instances they were almost obsessed with the tool, an excel spreadsheet in this case. Over the 3 week project I don’t believe they actually contributed to the content of the list. What was supposed to be a listing of the gaps by area between two processes became a quest to make it such that the excel sheet could be filtered and manipulated such that niche sets of data would align or show patterns.  This functionality did not contribute to the project at hand, combine the two processes.

Despite trying to get him to complete the template and move on, he continued to tweak the tool. In the end I resorted to taking one of the iterations of the spreadsheet and working only from that copy, ignoring revisions he had made. By the end of the project I believe I was able to capture all of the gaps and was able to hold the necessary meeting to finalize what must, could and shouldn’t be implemented. This was despite the fact that my list did not have all of the ‘functionality’ of the still evolving spreadsheet.

It is not easy to try to influence people to not get sucked into these constant improvements.  Also be careful not to let yourself or your colleagues start to use it as a procrastination tool.   “Oh, I’ll start documenting that database with hundreds of fields right after I get this spreadsheet just right.”  This is also not good.  Big tasks such as data dictionaries are always a pain to get started, but the more you tweak that layout, the more you delay the celebration of no longer having to go through all those line items.

Simply put, what must be done should not be hampered by the lack of sophisticated or niche tools.  When there isn’t a deadline breathing down your neck, feel free to start embracing those new best practices or updating the templates.

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