By Tamara McLendon —
In Part 1, I wrote about why focusing on the whole person when talking about employee productivity is necessary, and how our first step was to use group training and coaching around the principles of Getting Things Done to instill these ideas and behaviors in existing and new team members.
Evolving our Processes
Step two was to figure out how to make these now-shared ideas flow into our processes and procedures. ConnectWise, our practice management system, is a great tool for handling a high volume of support requests and customer data. It’s not so intuitive for delivering up the right ticket to you at the right time.
For most of our team, they ended up with two systems: one for ticket-related work (ConnectWise), and one for administrative and personal tasks (Outlook, a mobile app, and/or a paper journal).
As the President, I work directly in ConnectWise throughout the day, but I’m also in QuickBooks, Outlook, and other applications just as much, so it didn’t make sense for ConnectWise to act as my personal capture and organizational flow.
I use Outlook for most things, with a to-do list app on my iPhone that syncs to Outlook Tasks, and a paper journal for taking long-form notes. Any Next Actions I write in the journal are transferred into Outlook the next time I have them both in the same place. When I do get assigned a ticket in ConnectWise, I copy the relevant information into an Outlook task, and paste the ticket link into the task notes for easy access.
The rest of our team is much more tied into ConnectWise, so they’ve applied GTD differently, depending on their personal preferences. Most have two systems – ConnectWise and either Outlook or a stand-alone to-do list manager like TaskTask or another favorite, Todoist. ConnectWise houses all the client-facing work, and the second system is for everything else work-related and personal.
To make ConnectWise work better in this context, we looked at how to incorporate the GTD principles by customizing views and adding fields.
The biggest change was to address the issue that ticket descriptions have multiple purposes. GTD says that your Next Action subject lines should be formatted to include the very next physical action that needs to be taken.
- Call Bob to discuss the new backup device.
- Log in to Jeanne’s PC to troubleshoot her printer issue.
- Email Melissa to schedule deployment of new PCs & server.
These are all actionable items. You know exactly what to do when you read it. But when the ticket is created automatically from a customer support email, it often looks more like this:
- Worried about our data. Recommendations?
- We’re ready to move ahead on that upgrade.
And then once we’re done with the work, that description may show up on an invoice or portal view of work accomplished that month. To help the customer understand what we did, the subject lines really should look like this:
- Assessed data protection needs and provided back-up solution.
- Resolved Joanne’s printer issue.
- Deployed 11 new PCs and 1 new server.
It’s very clear what was done. But that’s not a good way to show what the tech’s next step is. Every time they look at that ticket, whether it says the customer-created subject line (“Printer!?!?”) or the invoice-friendly line (“Resolved Joanne’s printer issue.”), they have to remember what they’ve already done and what they were going to do next. Maybe they open the ticket and read through the thread until they get to the point where the next step becomes obvious.
To avoid that backtracking and rethinking, we’ve added a custom field to our tickets: The Next Action field. The Support Desk, which is the first point of contact for incoming tickets, is responsible making two changes to every new ticket.
First, they change the main subject line to an invoice-friendly one, as close as they can get this early in the process. Second, add a logical Next Action, based their assessment of where the problem lies. If they’re working the ticket themselves, they’ll have a good starting point to take action. If they’re escalating it to an engineer, they’ll know exactly what’s next.
The owner of the ticket then updates that Next Action field as they go, giving themselves a bookmark into the process, making it easy to pick up where they left off, or for someone else to pitch in and take over.
The second tweak we made in ConnectWise is just applying the “views” feature– the ability to add columns and change the sort order in each person’s own ticket list. By showing columns for the Next Action and Priority, and sorting by SLA status (which essentially sorts tickets so that the oldest ones are listed first), technicians can see what tickets should get their attention first, and exactly what they need to do next. No rethinking, no reconstructing.
This explanation was very ConnectWise-specific, but I hope it’s clear how it could be applied in any number of professional services practice management systems. Make sure there’s a place to capture and display tasks using good Next Action subject lines, and create views that deliver them up to your team in the best way to remove decision-making about what’s next.
The Big Picture
As granular as your GTD implementation can get, it’s important to keep your eyes on the desired result. This isn’t organization for organization’s sake. There’s a shared purpose here. That’s why the team is willing to try it out, and hopefully, stick with it. It’s why we’re investing in it.
It’s not just about the quality of the work, which is important, but it’s not everything. It’s also about quality of life for everyone on the team. They know for sure that what they’re doing is exactly what they should be doing and that they’re pulling their own weight, and they’re confident that everyone else is doing the same.
When they get home, they’re doing the right thing at the right time there too. Undoneness isn’t getting in the way. Actual examples from the last few months: Car registrations get renewed on time, the kids have clean clothes to put on every morning, and long-delayed home renovation projects get started. They don’t run out of diapers in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, as actually happened to us once. Home life chugs steadily along.
People who have well-tended home lives don’t come in late or have to take emergency PTO to deal with crises of their own making. They don’t bring their stress from home, and maybe their anger from an argument with spouse about who was supposed to do what, into the office.
And that makes the whole team function better. Together, and individually, we’re just… getting it done.
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