Point Lookout An email newsletter from Chaco Canyon Consulting
Point Lookout, a free weekly email newsletter from Chaco Canyon Consulting
April 30, 2014 Volume 14, Issue 18
 
Recommend this issue to a friend
Join the Friends of Point Lookout
HTML to link to this article…
Archive: By Topic    By Date
Links to Related Articles
Sign Up for A Tip A Day!
Create a perpetual bookmark to the current issue Bookmark and Share
Tweet this! | Follow @RickBrenner Random Article

Office Automation

by

Desktop computers, laptop computers, and tablets have automation capabilities that can transform our lives, but few of us use them. Why not? What can we do about that?
A metaphorical depiction of the creation of artificial intelligence

A metaphorical depiction of the creation of artificial intelligence — a pun on Michelangelo's depiction of Adam and the hand of God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The automation discussed here certainly does not meet the definition of artificial intelligence. But it would take you a few steps closer to that ideal. Image courtesy the U.S. Defense Department Science blog.

We all use computers and computer-based devices. Some of us use them effectively, but more of us use them just effectively enough that we're unaware of how truly powerful they can be. Computer-based devices have three levels of capabilities.

Ready-to-use capabilities
All our devices have capabilities intended for use with almost no training. Menu and ribbon commands, keyboard shortcuts, and email message filtering are examples. But some capabilities are hard to find, and some, once found, are hard to understand and remember. The ease-of-use of these machines is often oversold.
If you want to benefit from these capabilities, invest effort in learning about them. Because that investment pays for itself quickly, learning one new thing generates time to learn the next. Try this: Windows Mac
Organizational If everyone is so busy doing "real work"
that they have no time to learn how to
do it better, they'll just use what
they already know
leaders who expect employees to learn how to use these capabilities on their own are perhaps a bit naïve. Employees need support, assistance, and time to explore. If everyone is so busy doing "real work" that they have no time to learn how to do it better, they'll just use what they already know. The lost productivity rapidly accumulates to levels beyond the savings that came from not offering training and support.
Simple extensions
Many software applications support stationery, templates, styles, bookmarks, hyperlinks, macro recording, and so on. Mastering these simple extensions takes some effort — more than simple menu commands and keyboard shortcuts.
Although these extensions seem easy enough in blog posts and YouTube videos, for many, the simplicity is deceptive. The shortest path to mastery usually involves getting help from peers or user groups. Seek help and pay it forward.
Organizations can make some templates, stationery, or styles available to everyone. Tragically, organizations rarely support effective education in using these assets, but they could. Making it easier for employees to learn does reduce costs.
Programmatic extensions
Because this third class of capabilities usually involves programming — scripts are an example — most employees cannot exploit them. Even when they know what tools they want and what tools could simplify their work, they don't know how to produce them. Some do, of course, and they do benefit.
Unless you have a talent for programming and user interface design, leave these items to experts. People who try to exploit these capabilities, and who lack necessary skills, often find that the effort does not pay.
This class of automation tools is the domain of the expert. The organization must step forward, making resources available to the people who know what tools they need, but lack the ability to build them. Supporting those resources is cheaper than letting people waste their time trying to do what they cannot.

Whether you have broad organizational responsibility, or you're just trying to get through the day without falling further behind, there's much you can do to get more done with less effort. Exploit automation. Go to top  Top  Next issue: The End-to-End Cost of Meetings: Part I  Next Issue
Bookmark and Share


52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome
Would you like to see your comments posted here? Send me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
A squirrel running a cageRunning Your Personal Squirrel Cage
As Glen rounded the corner behind the old oak, entering the last mile of his morning run, he suddenly realized that he was thinking about picking up the dry cleaning tomorrow and changing his medical appointment. Physically, he was jogging in a park, but mentally, he was running in a squirrel cage. How does this happen? What can we do about it?

Man chopping down a treeDouble Your Downsizing Damage
Some people believe that senior management is actually trying to hurt their company by downsizing. If they are they're doing a pretty bad job of it. Here's a handy checklist for evaluating the performance of your company's downsizers.

A metronomeSelling Uphill: The Pitch
Whether you're a CEO or a project champion, you occasionally have to persuade decision-makers who have some kind of power over you. What do they look for? What are the key elements of an effective pitch? What does it take to Persuade Power?

The Samuel Morse Telegraph ReceiverRemote Facilitation in Synchronous Contexts: Part III
Facilitators of synchronous distributed meetings (meetings that occur in real time, via telephone or video) can make life much easier for everyone by taking steps before the meeting starts. Here's Part III of a little catalog of suggestions for remote facilitators.

An actual deck chair recovered from the sunken liner <i>Titanic</i>The Deck Chairs of the Titanic: Obvious Waste
Among the most futile and irrelevant actions ever taken in crisis is rearranging the deck chairs of the Titanic, which, of course, never actually happened. But in the workplace, we engage in activities just as futile and irrelevant, often outside our awareness. Recognition is the first step to prevention.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Problem Solving and Creativity for more related articles.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenner@ChacoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
Reprinting this article
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Risk Management for Leaders
On 14The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Risk Management for Leaders December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in risk management and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at risk management from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Cognitive Biases and Workplace Decision-Making
For mCognitive Biases and Workplace Decision-Makingost of us, making decisions is a large part of what we do at work. And we tend to believe that we make our decisions rationally, except possibly when stressed or hurried. That is a mistaken belief — very few of our decisions are purely rational. In this eye-opening yet entertaining program, Rick Brenner guides you through the fascinating world of cognitive biases, and he'll give concrete tips to help you control the influence of cognitive biases. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

  • MITRE, in Bedford, MA: October 21, Monthly Meeting, Boston SPIN.
     
The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
On 14The Race to the Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

The Politics of Meetings for People Who Hate Politics
ThereThe Politics of Meetings for People Who Hate Politics's a lot more to running an effective meeting than having the right room, the right equipment, and the right people. With meetings, the whole really is more than the sum of its parts. How the parts interact with each other and with external elements is as important as the parts themselves. And those interactions are the essence of politics for meetings. This program explores techniques for leading meetings that are based on understanding political interactions, and using that knowledge effectively to meet organizational goals. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Where There's Smoke There's EmailTroubled by email flame wars? Or a blizzard of useless if well-intended messages from colleagues and subordinates? Read Where There's Smoke There's Email. Check it out!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
My free weekly email newsletter gives concrete tips and suggestions for dealing with the challenging but everyday situations we all face.
A Tip A DayA Tip a Day arrives by email, or by RSS Feed, each business day. It's 20 to 30 words at most, and gives you a new perspective on the hassles and rewards of work life. Most tips also contain links to related articles. Free!
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace -- with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks away!
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.
SSL