Posts Tagged ‘cutting’

The Blinding Task Orientation

by Himanshu Jhamb on October 12, 2009

Task OrientationThere are countless instances in my life when I have wondered why my hard work has not paid off the way I had expected it to ‘coz I had heard so many times (from so many people) that it really pays to work hard. Evidently, I was missing something. My quest for solving this mystery led me to investing in my education (after a drought of almost a decade), finally, and I learnt why hard work, by itself, is not enough to get the results that we are after.

I realized that the way I was working was self-defeating in itself. Yes, I was working long hours (very long hours), I was tired, sweating-it-out and simply slogging it out. I was doing what I was told and I worked really hard to finish it in time and when I was done with that one thing, I went to the next task. What totally escaped me was that in “task-orientation” i.e. my single-mindedness of completing the task; I was simply blind to the overall purpose of what I was doing and in the process, did not end up producing much although it felt like I had moved a mountain (or two!).

If you can identify with this feeling… keep reading…

As an example of what “Task Orientation” looks like (or shows up as) in real life, a recent event comes to mind. I was working with a team member on a project where we were figuring out a piece of software on how we can make it work for using it to deliver some audio/video content. My astute colleague figured it out pretty quickly and I requested him to send out an email with detailed instructions on how to use the software to the rest of the team so that everyone can start utilizing it to do their work more effectively. My colleague sent out the email in the next 15 minutes with 3-4 brief steps and the final step (which was where the meat was) was garbled (perhaps a result of a shoddy cut/paste attempt). 3 out of 4 team members responded for clarifications and a flurry of emails followed to rectify the situation. Imagine how easy it would’ve been if my dear colleague would’ve given just a little more time to thinking of the PURPOSE of the request rather than treat it as just a “Task” that had to be taken care of quickly. The difference is admittedly, subtle, but the consequences, unfortunately, are not.

I have been culprit of many such emails in the past… (and I apologize now to all those who received those emails from me that added “Cost” to their life) and have learnt to take care by following a few simple rules to take care of my natural inclination to the “Task orientation” in my work and not get trapped in it. Here are a few of my simple rules:

  1. Know the recipients of your emails: Who are you writing to? Are they aware of the context of your email? If not, provide some background before you dive into what you have to say.
  2. Know your recipient’s proficiency in what you will be talking about in your email. So, for example, you will be writing a very different email if you are giving technical instructions to a group of developers vs. a group of managers.
  3. Make sure the links or any references you provide in your emails, WORK. Test them out yourself before sending the email out. It is “Very Costly” for the recipients to click on the links you provide in your email that do not work.
  4. Cutting & Pasting (especially software code or configuration stuff): If you are cutting/pasting anything that you want others to take “as-is”: Cut/Paste it in the email body and also cut/paste it in a simple text editor (e.g. notepad); save the file; attach it and then send the email. The attachment serves as a backup plan. It takes care of the situation in which any “hidden” or “Special” characters inadvertently find their way in your email and gives your recipient a “second-chance” to receive what you wanted to send them without them going through the trouble of sending you another email asking you to resend the cut/paste text. That’s a HUGE Cost Saving!
  5. Include your signature at the end of your emails: How many times have you received emails from others, had a question you wanted to speak to them about immediately but could not get in touch with them because all you saw at the end of the email was a “Thanks!”? Do your recipients (and yourself) a favor – Do not be that person.

Imagine the assessments you trigger at the other side of the email with your recipients in your everyday communications. Imagine how you’d show up for them in your emails  if you “took care” to write emails with these rules. You will show up as someone who really “cares” for their time and your time. On the other hand, “Task orientation” only produces lots of activity… not necessarily productive and leaves people with quite a few negative assessments about you.

The choice is yours… and so are the consequences of it!

Choose with care!