rule-bookWhat’s that you say? Throw out the rule book? Never! Actually, throwing out the rule book and acting on your experience and intuition can be a great benefit in certain situations. For example when you’re hosting a high pressure event full of procedures and rules, it can really hone your focus and make you much more effective. This post may be a bit specialised to short high pressure events however we will explore this idea and see how it can be applied to increase our productivity. Acting on experience and intuition comes completely naturally to some people but not so naturally to most productivity gurus who love frameworks and processes.

Too many procedures, processes, rules

When you’re running a day long high-pressure event on behalf of an organisation, you may be given a detailed procedures handbook complete with a plethora of checklists that guide you through all the activities you should be executing and monitoring throughout the day. There may be 5 things in a checklist that the handbook asks you to do every hour. At the same time you may be managing 10-15 staff. These 10-15 staff will be running into their own challenges and escalating issues to you to deal with throughout the day.

What happens when you follow the procedures diligently?

Often the procedure handbook will not tell you what’s critical to success, what’s important and what’s not as important. If you follow every procedure to the dot, you’ll end up spending a disproportionate amount of time on procedures that don’t have much impact and will not dedicate the time necessary for the critical procedures. It won’t make a difference if you don’t do a whole bunch of un-important procedures, however if you rush a critical procedure and make mistakes because you ran out of time… then you’ll have problems.

Every unimportant detail you worry over and look up in the procedure handbook takes away precious time that you need to prepare for the important parts. In busy events where you’re managing staff, you need to be constantly preparing for the important activities that are coming up next and talking to your staff to make sure they know what to expect. If you don’t do this, your staff will end up standing still and waiting for your directions because they don’t know what they should be doing. If you’re pondering and diligently working through unimportant procedures and checklists, you neglect this planning and preparing aspect that requires your time. Neglecting this will cause more problems that missing a few of the unimportant rules.

Another effect of not spending enough time talking to and checking in with your staff is that they may be executing the critical procedures incorrectly and you don’t notice it because you’re too busy worrying about extra checklists of tasks that don’t have much impact if they are missed.

If you’ve run a similar event before, your practical experience is a great asset that you should be using. If you are constantly reading and following checklists in the procedure handbook, you don’t pick up on what’s actually happening around you and can’t make adjustments and course corrections by applying your practical experience to ensure the important things run smoothly.

Key observations

  • Not every procedure in the handbook is of equal importance!
  • Referring to the handbook takes away precious time
  • Referring to the handbook takes you away from managing your staff
  • Referring to the handbook doesn’t make use of your practical experience

What happens when you throw out the rule book?

Let me clarify this idea. I’m not suggesting completely ignoring the procedure handbook, throwing it in the bin and running things any way you feel like! That would definitely end up in tears as many important things will be missed and a lot of the effort could be completely invalidated.

I’m suggesting you first read and understand the procedure handbook, while also remembering your practical experience and separating what’s critical from important, from what would only have very minor impact if not done. Then when the big day arrives for your event, put the procedure handbook aside on your desk just in case you need it. Then leave it there and don’t touch it again unless you are referring to a procedure for a critical step because an unusual situation has occurred that you can’t get wrong.

Instead of focussing on ticking off every checklist, leave the handbook alone and focus on executing the important tasks, preparing and training your staff, monitoring your staff to make sure they are doing the important things correctly, and resolving any challenges that pop up. Walk around and check how things are going, look for anything that’s not working well and make course corrections and small adjustments. Use any quiet time to plan for what’s coming next and prepare your staff by telling them what to expect and what they’ll need to do. Remember your staff haven’t received the training that you have and are learning on the day, so all the training and preparation you give them will greatly help as they spring into action rather than wait for you.

Walk around and ask yourself:

  • Are my staff completing the important tasks?
  • Are my staff executing the important procedures correctly?
  • Are there any incidents that need my attention?
  • Have I planned for the next activity?
  • Do my staff know what is happening next and what they will need to do?
  • Are there any things that are not working well or can be improved?
  • Are there course corrections or adjustments I can implement?
  • Have I documented and updated the records for the important things?

Acting on the above instead of pouring over your procedure handbook all day may result in you missing minor procedures or not executing some minor procedures 100% correctly. However you will:

  • Have enough time to ensure the things critical to success are being done correctly
  • Have enough time to ensure your staff know what to do and aren’t standing still waiting for directions
  • Know that your staff are executing the important procedures correctly and you won’t have trouble reconciling results after the event.

This is a far more effective use of your precious time than making sure all the minute procedures are completed and agonising over the plethora of checklists and empty spaces in the handbook that you were supposed to populate.

Another option is to delegate the minor procedures or checklists to an experienced member of your staff and let them remind you if anything needs your attention.

Remember that even though your boss may say that every rule needs to be followed, if you break some rules but still perform the important tasks correctly, your boss and staff will be much happier than if you executed 99.9% of the procedures but took 1.5 times as long to do it and missed something critical.

When have you been more productive by putting aside the procedures and rules?