How to improve team productivity with simple SOPs

Gina Trapani, formerly of Lifehacker, recently posted this picture and the accompanying text. It’s a short set of rules that are, in effect, a simple team SOP (standard operating procedure). With even a small set of agreements about how they will operate, expectations and execution will more closely match up. When these rules are known and set in advance, regardless of what the actual rules are, it can dramatically reduce miscellaneous friction caused by unspoken mismatches between your expectations and my execution.

My colleague Pierre Khawand at People-OnTheGo has presented his Accomplishing More with Less workshops to teams in the past, and we’ve discussed how this sort of simple tool has a disproportionately positive impact on how a team gets along over time.  People regularly object that “but there are always exceptions!” C’mon, I say, you’re a bunch of smart people, right? (No one ever objects to that!) There’s no reason that a group of smart people can’t come up with a standard way of dealing with exceptions and emergencies. In the linked post, it’s simple:

EMERGENCY? = Use phone

The understanding here is that if you know that people will check email at roughly the stated times, and your need is legitimately more urgent than that, you can use the phone. The implication is that the team leader has instituted, as part of the team culture, the rule that phones are to be used only for emergencies and that they have to be available to receive emergency requests. That’s a rule that others might disagree with, but that’s not the standard.

When asked by people what rules they should have, expecting us to pull out a laminated “rules of the office” list, we always go back to the underlying situation, habits, and culture. The key to this sort of SOP is that it should be organically generated by the team to improve/ensure adoption and compliance.

(NB: no specific reason for two POTG posts today other than that I’m clearing through emails and getting things written that needed writing.)