Work Out Loud Week Day 5 Reflection – Smarter, Not Harder


Today’s WOL Week Reflection on Growth Mindset made me think of a blog post written by Seth Godin, Try Better.  The point of this blog is that rather than pushing yourself or others to “work harder”, that you “try better” instead – try something different, learn something new.

For me the growth mindset component of working out loud is all about working better, not harder.  We all certainly have the ability to figure things out all by ourselves.  And while there is value in struggling through something on your own, it’s usually not the most efficient way to operate.

In one of my core areas of responsibility, compliance, I’m known as a “team of one”.  I have some specialized knowledge/expertise and I’m the only one in my group with responsibility for this area.  However, team of one is really a misnomer.  When I moved into this role several years ago, I wasn’t selected for this role because I was a subject matter expert.  I was primarily selected for my demonstrated ability to learn and come up to speed quickly.  I’ve developed this ability not because I’m a genius – far from it.  My ability to grow, develop, and maintain strong networks is why I can come up to speed so quickly.  So, I’m not really a team of one, because I have a whole network of people behind me.

You might think that in an area like compliance, that things are pretty black and white.  It’s right or it’s wrong, end of story.  In actuality, most things tend to be more gray.  I play a support role where I need to be more a generalist.  When the answer isn’t obvious, I need to go and consult with the true subject matter experts.  There have been times when it has literally taken me weeks to connect with all the right people to find the information needed.  From the very beginning, I began writing up not only the answer, but also the process I used to find the answer.  Some of the situations I have to work through come up once or twice a year, and this way what took me weeks to figure out the first time, can be done in minutes.

I also began publishing this information internally to make it available to others as well.  I started writing procedures that included links to relevant policies, forms, decision trees, process maps, and names of key subject matter experts.  These tools have allowed my support staff to become more independent and able to handle routine situations on their own.  One question I’m asked a lot is whether I’m afraid that by sharing all this information, I’ll make myself obsolete.  Why would my department need to keep me around if I’ve documented and freely shared everything I know?  What I tell them is that in my experience, documenting and sharing has made me more valuable, not less.

By making it easier and less time consuming to take care of the more routine aspects of my job, I now have the time to focus on more value-added activities.  This is where I get to put on my 6 Sigma hat and think about process improvement.  While I have been able to document one way to accomplish a particular end, it’s not necessarily the best or most efficient way.  Anyone who has worked for a large company knows that it’s easy for things to get bogged down with unnecessary bureaucracy.

Documenting and mapping a process can help illuminate the bottlenecks and inefficiencies.  By sharing my ideas for process improvement, I can get input from others.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is that great ideas can come from anywhere.  Someone in manufacturing may have found a great way to streamline approvals that I can apply to my conflict of interest process.  However without sharing my work, it’s unlikely I would have come up with that idea on my own.

As a result, I’ve been successful in creating more efficient ways to get things done.  I’m also frequently contacted by groups outside of my area who have stumbled across the information I’ve shared to ask for assistance.  My reputation has grown and I’ve even been asked to participate on some enterprise-wide efforts.  I truly believe all of this has some about because I’ve been willing to work out loud.

A growth mindset comes when you realize as Kenneth Blanchard says “none of us is as smart as all of us”.  Leveraging the collective knowledge of a community is certainly one way of “trying better”.

Author: Joyce A Gustafson

Passionate about continuous improvement, "working out loud", and constantly learning. Reviving this blog after a long absence. Recently moved to Maine and loving it! NOTE: This is my personal blog and the thoughts and opinions are my own. This blog does NOT represent the view and opinions of my employer

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