How leaders can improve organization: Q & A with Don Fornes

don fornesThis week’s article is an interview with Don Fornes, CEO of Software Advice. His blog A Million Little Wins offers perspectives on how to build a business. Don connected with me after I published 7 ways to improve your meetings in August. I asked Don some questions about the Bad-Assed Execution (BAE) system, based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done, that he has developed to improve productivity in his company.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned as a leader about helping your people get organized?

While many employers treat personal organization as a personal matter, we’ve learned that if you want to execute on projects more efficiently, you need everyone on your team to get organized in the same way. We created our BAE Principles so that everyone would have a consistent, repeatable framework for staying organized and getting things done. And we provide organizational training for all of our new hires to ensure that everyone follows the same method.

How has your approach to organization tangibly benefited your people?

Our BAE Principles provide clear guidelines that are easy for employees to follow, helping them keep track of important projects, tasks and emails that might otherwise fall through the cracks.

And these guidelines can help people in their personal as well as their professional lives: by following the BAE Principles at home, employees may never pay a bill late or forget a friend’s birthday again. These principles also help managers stay up-to-date on team progress, so they can keep projects moving forward and provide guidance where it is needed.

What are your top tips for leaders to overcome staff resistance to such changes in organization and working habits?

While we haven’t encountered much resistance to the BAE Principles, it’s always important to make sure that employees are aware of the larger purpose behind new rules and regulations. We encourage all our new hires to read David Allen’s Getting Things Done, which our BAE Principles are largely based on.

The book offers a detailed explanation of the value these organizational principles can bring to peoples’ lives as well as their jobs. This shows employees that we’re not just instituting these measures arbitrarily, but rather, that we’re trying to help them live and work more expediently.

How does your approach enhance the effectiveness of David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach?

Our BAE Principles retain the core ideas presented in Getting Things Done. However, we implement those concepts using modern, web-based tools–Gmail, Google Calendar and Basecamp–that help us stay organized and manage our projects. We’ve also added some principles of our own to make Allen’s approach better fit our business model.

For example, we encourage employees to use Google as a resource before asking managers for help, and emphasize the importance of delivering early and often in the life of a project. And we can tell that our approach is effective: we’ve hired 27 new people in the last three months alone to keep up with the projects we’re executing on.

What is your advice to other leaders who want to implement these execution principles with their teams?

Implement these principles across your entire organization, and teach them to all new hires. You want your employees to be organized and efficient from day one. You’ll probably need to adapt these principles somewhat to fit your business, but make sure that whatever system you follow, you uphold Allen’s two main ideas: get everything that needs to be done written down in one place, and break projects up into manageable pieces.

Writing everything down in one place ensures that people don’t forget about, or lose track of, important tasks and assignments. Breaking projects up into chunks keeps them from getting overwhelmed when handling multiple projects at once. Mastering these two concepts is the first step towards getting and staying organized.

Thank you, Don, for a productive Q&A!

If you are having some challenges around organisation and productivity, please contact me directly or leave  a question in the comments below.

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