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Steps to Make Work at Cloudriven More Meaningful

LingonberryThis is the second and last part of Jukka’s blog post about meaningful work. The first part was released two weeks ago.

Doctor’s Orders

As we tend to do at Cloudriven, we analyzed what kind of results we’d achieved in spring and what kind of actions were taken to reach the results. Based on the analysis, we decided what we’re going to focus on this fall and made some changes to our management system:

a) we gave the employees more autonomy, so they can now decide on their own what strategically relevant actions they take on a weekly basis
b) we separated actions and results
c) we decided to reward employees for doing strategically relevant actions with the chance to influence Cloudriven’s operations and to get opportunities for professional development

When you’re given the freedom to choose from different actions that are critical to the ability to create value for the customers, you can channel your time and skills better for actions that you’re good at and you have motivation to perform. If our presumption of somewhat rational decision-making concerning the use of time will be true, the logical conclusion is that the productivity of our work will increase compared to the previous season.

We also thought about how we could build our team spirit even further. We decided to give each of us the chance to weekly nominate a colleague who has done an excellent job. This is how we try to channel respectful and guiding feedback to each other. It was also amazing to hear that our customers wanted to join us too. A couple of weeks ago I filmed a video in which one of our customers tells spontaneously how a mobile app developed by Cloudriven has had a positive impact on their organization’s customer interactions. We do our work to deliver success for our customers and the best feedback we can get is a sincere Thank You from a customer.

In addition, we supposed that we all want to learn new things and develop ourselves. That is why we revised the way our actions are rewarded. During the fall, every team member can teach their special skills to others; these mini-courses will be provided as a reward for good performance. The final course listing is still in the making, but the selection seems to match at least a small folk high school. Of course we also offer smaller and a bit bigger rewards that develop our skills and welfare, and offer possibilities to influence our own work.

Even the Bears Don’t Always Wrestle – Occasionally They Eat Lingonberries

If everything mentioned above would run solely on manual labor, Cloudriven would have a chronic need to hire more people to management. However, we decided to let the bears hunt for the lingonberries (N.B. this Finnish saying was made popular by Kummeli, a popular comedy group originally from Tampere), so that we can instead focus on work that adds value to our customers. That is why we use our Habit Engine to manage our weekly tasks and work. We made some changes to the configurations of Habit based on the changes implemented in our management system:

a) we present critical actions and results in the same view to be able to examine what is the connection between actions and results
b) we only give rewards for actions, because we believe that results obey actions
c) we unified the target points of different worker roles, so that the work efforts would be comparable
d) we register all the sales activities in our own Virta CRM and push the data to Habit through the generic Microsoft Dynamics CRM integration
e) we welcome video feedback from our customers about our successes and possible weak spots and discuss about the feedback

Yet refining the system didn’t lead us to give up our weekly team meetings. On the contrary, we strengthened our management through the Habit Engine; now we can analyze our performance weekly and make fast but advised decisions. The changes didn’t affect the time we spend on weekly meetings, but it increased the productivity of the meetings, as we can now use our time more on relevant topics.

When it comes to attendance, the most significant change is that Janne is mapping out possible partners in New York and can’t attend the meetings in person. Despite the fact that he’s not physically here, he’s still present. His work efforts can be tracked in Habit and communication is easy with Office 365 services, like Lync, Outlook, SharePoint, and our social Virta CRM.

Meaningful Work Is the Best Cure for the Fear of Engagement

Engaged WorkersWhat kind of results would you dare to expect of an ice hockey team that has only 2.6 players who are willing to give everything they’ve got for the team? 12.6 players don’t really care about the end result and 4.8 are just waiting for the beach balls to be thrown on the ice.

According to a Gallup survey, employee engagement matters. Organizations that had at least 9.3 engaged employees per one unengaged grinch achieved 147 % better Earnings Per Share than their competitors.

This should at least draw the attention of business decision-makers, but engagement should also be in the interest of the employee. It happens to be so that the engaged employees felt their lives to flourish three times more likely than the unengaged. So what’s so wrong about being inspired and engaged?

Cures for the Fear of Engagement

We believe that the fear of engagement at work eases, if the person can feel that she’s doing a meaningful job. Work becomes meaningful when the employee

1) respects the shared goals of the working community,
2) understands how her work is connected to the goals,
3) can build her success on her strengths,
4) receives respectful, yet guiding feedback from her supervisors and colleagues about her successes and failures,
5) is given the chance to take care of both her physical and mental welfare by exercising, getting enough rest and eating healthy.

In addition, the Gallup survey emphasizes that you should invest on recruiting the right people and try to combine the strengths of the employee with the right work tasks. Employee welfare is of course important as well.

Janne wrote in June about the way we at Cloudriven found the cure for the fear of engagement. He highlighted three important aspects:

1) Manage weeks, not years
2) Choose three things you promise to deliver
3) Create positive social pressure to motivate

The first point is usually forgotten in many organizations, because many times the management is so focused on the figures that the actions behind the results are neglected. All kinds of policy action programs may still be launched, if the white papers support those. The most important thing is still missing, though. The actions! In these cases the end result typically is either a complex organizational chart that includes comprehensive descriptions of the main processes and subprocesses, a new information system or a prestudy that comes with a long list of development proposals. Whereas in organizations where people share the same goals, not one of the working weeks is the same and work is done a little bit differently every week. At the same time this indicates that

a) the management has successfully communicated the shared goals and defined the weekly critical actions together with the employees,
b) the respectful yet guiding feedback has been given to the right people, so that actions can be changed.

Most of us want to keep our word when we’ve promised something. So just the mere act of promising out loud what we want to accomplish during a working week drives most of us to make an effort. No one wants to give excuses, at least not every week. Transparency and the freedom of choice combined with meaningful rewarding creates a proper positive pressure to get your weekly tasks done.

The second part of the blog post will be published on week 36.

Multitask Less and Achieve More

Does it sometimes feel like you’re working a lot, yet you can’t get anything done? Don’t worry, you most certainly are not alone. I also used to suffer from a sickness I like to call serious multitasking. It’s quite closely related to the lack of concentration, idling and running aimlessly. I’ve come to the conclusion that serious multitasking seems to be on the increase, because for one information worker there simply are too many things to do and follow simultaneously.

Regarding work and especially results, serious multitasking is destructive, as the most serious symptom of serious multitasking is that nothing ever seems to be completed. This leads to an unhappy circle of events: when you can’t score off anything from your To-Do list, you won’t get the experiences of success, which eventually leads to decrease in motivation.

Luckily there’s a cure for this disease. I started my healing process immediately after joining Cloudriven. Although some of the symptoms still apper from time to time, I feel relieved and – most importantly – I can score off tasks from my To-Do list every week. For people suffering from a serious case of multitasking, I recommend the following three point treatment.

1) Manage Weeks, Not Years

Our CEO Jukka has said that change can’t be managed over a weekend. If actions are not monitored weekly, temptation to procrastinate is way too big. Loose and long deadlines tend to make us passive, because by nature we underestimate the time that is needed to perform a task. On a weekly basis it’s also easy to confirm, that we all are doing right and meaningful things that support the shared goals.

At Cloudriven we naturally have certain strategic goals and metrics. Instead of monitoring the metrics once a quartal or a year, we keep track of the metrics weekly by using our own Habit designed for performance management. This way we can react fast to changes and our employees’ motivation and engagement will stay high, because we can concretely see that our actions have consequences.

Our actions have a direct effect on the strategic metrics of the company.

Our actions have a direct effect on the strategic metrics of the company.

2) Choose Three Things You Promise to Deliver

The five day work week is surprisingly short, whereas a year feels like a lifetime. Yet, there are only 52 weeks in a year and at least four of those the worker spends on holiday. In average there are approximately 47 work weeks in a calendar year.

We’ve come to the conclusion that you should only concentrate on three things per week. That is why we promise in our Monday meeting to finish three tasks. The amount of tasks might sound small but in addition each of us has also other work-related responsibilities which take time. The trickiest part is to choose tasks of the right size: if you’re too greedy, time runs out. Thanks to our management system, I’ve developed a clear understanding of what I can achieve during one work week. This makes personal time management a lot easier.

47 weeks x 3 tasks = 141 accomplished tasks in a year. Serious multitasking doesn’t bring you these kinds of figures!

3) Create Positive Social Pressure to Motivate

Every Monday in our weekly “laputus” meeting (laputus is Finnish and means the act of sticking notes on a wall) we go through the tasks of last and beginning week. Positive social pressure is created, when everyone can briefly report about their doings. It’s always nicer to tell about achievements than explain away why you haven’t been able to finish the tasks. We write the three tasks down on Post-It notes and we return to them next Monday.

We also follow the tasks in our own Habit. You get points for every accomplished Post-It note and it’s easy to check from the results view, how many have reached their weekly target. To make a point of giving points, you can buy small prizes (for example, a bottle of sparkling) from the Habit point store.

We report and monitor strategic metrics in Habit on a weekly basis.

We report and monitor strategic metrics in Habit on a weekly basis.

In Habit, positive social pressure is being created with an encouraging competition. You get points for accomplishing tasks.

In Habit, positive social pressure is being created with an encouraging competition. You get points for accomplishing tasks.

You can buy small prizes from the point store.

You can buy small prizes from the point store.

So seriously, stop multitasking and start achieving! We’d be glad to tell you more tips about increasing your own and your team’s productivity. Leave your e-mail address and we’ll offer you FREE first aid for the most acute emergency.

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Do You Still Manage Performance With Time Card?

Konzerthaus am Gendarmenmarkt in all its glory.

Konzerthaus am Gendarmenmarkt in all its glory.

The way we work has already changed, but what about management? Most companies in the post-industrial world are somewhat capable of measuring the working hours. A big question in some workplaces might still be if one should stamp the time card when drinking coffee next to one’s work laptop.

But how many companies can really manage performance so, that the employees would reflect on what they consider to be the most meaningful things in their own performance? The question is relevant, because good performance and good results can’t be achieved merely by accident.

I thought about this issue when I spent a long weekend in Berlin practising my beloved hobby, singing. Our two performances of Kullervo Symphony by Sibelius seemed to do their work on the audience at the Konzerthaus. I had also packed my work laptop with me, as I agreed with my boss Jukka that I’d do some work during my trip. The plentiful breakfast at the hotel, running in the springlike Tiergarten park, performing good classical music in a high-class milieu for enthusiastic audience and choosing a place to eat from the abundance of Berlin restaurants were a nice change for the ordinary workweek.

What about results? Two offers, one adjustment for an offer, one presentation material and one semifinished offer. Apart from the last, all of these are easily measured variables. Board meeting scheduled for Monday was postponed, so I even had some spare time to shop for souvenirs. It was also very educational and inspiring to listen to 72-year-old Jorma Hynninen’s dazzling and compelling singing.

Konzerthausorchester Berlin and Pietari Inkinen performing the Kullervo Symphony.

Konzerthausorchester Berlin and Pietari Inkinen performing the Kullervo Symphony.

Remote work doesn’t fit for all situations and work tasks but clear metrics and goals which have been agreed together make both work and the management of work easier and more free. Could this also affect the employees’ performance? When it comes to my own trip, Cloudriven’s customer cases and general research, the impact has been distinctly positive.