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  • Writer's pictureJack Mullaney

Workflows Matter

Here's something they don't tell you when you become a college coach.

You won't spend a lot of time coaching.

No, seriously. I think there's this perception that coaches go to practice, then spend the rest of their days reviewing film, reading about various training methods, and meeting with athletes to discuss individual areas of growth.

I wish it was that way.

I don't think it's fair to throw the entire system under the bus, because I recognize there's value in some of it.

Instead, I'll sum it up with a quote from author Cal Newport, on the need for optimized workflows in an organization:

”Workflows matter, and if your workflow is dependent on ad hoc, back-and-forth, unstructured communication - if you just say, “Hey, welcome to our company, here’s an email address. Let’s rock and roll” - you have set up a workplace in which it is going to be very hard for people to take their brains - the main capital resource you have in a knowledge work organization, the human brain - it’s going to be very hard for people to take their brains and actually get a good return from it and actually produce value at a high level. It is the equivalent of buying expensive machinery for your car factory, and then running them too hot, not cleaning them appropriately, and getting sand in the gears so they’re operating well below their potential capacity.”

What if, instead of being open to disruption at any moment, we scheduled office hours when those who needed something from us could stop by?

What if, instead of getting in long email exchanges with a certain function or department, we had a weekly meeting where it was agreed that would be the time to get things done?

What if we had a clearly stated system on how we communicated with recruits? (Some of you might. Kudos.)

I ran an analysis on my inbox tonight. The ratio of emails received to emails sent is about 4:1 (how on Earth did we let anyone and everyone infiltrate the communication stream that we use to do our job?). Of the ones I sent, the ratio of emails where I'm responding on a message to emails where I initiate the communication is also about 4:1.

Nobody is solely to blame for this. I've got some ideas on how workflows can improve, but I don't have the perfect solution. What is perfectly clear, however, is that there's currently a lot more noise than signal.

That's why I'm intrigued by Newport's next book, A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload, which comes out next Tuesday. I recognize that one publication won't change the world, but continuing to press for a better solution helps gain momentum for finding one.

Until then, I have some new emails to read.

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