Research shows that managers cannot easily find 80 percent of the information they need to perform efficiently in their jobs. Gartner, a $1 billion technology analysis company, reports that on average, a manager wastes at least $5,000 in time each year just looking for information they need.
Addressing Managers’ Information Needs
Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, has explained that there are two types of information: structured and unstructured.
Structured information is based on relational databases. Data warehousing has revolutionized organizations’ ability to collect, organize, query, and manage information about their customers, prospects, products, and financials. Front line employees’ work processes are typically structured to take advantage of applications based on relational databases and data warehousing technology.
Unstructured information is traditionally stored in individual documents on hard drives, in emails, memos, reports, letters, white papers, research, presentations, etc. Microsoft Office is the technology application suite most people use to create this unstructured information.
Unstructured information is what managers use to perform their jobs. The collection, organization, queries, and management of this unstructured information is very difficult. Consequently, managers lose a great deal of time in trying to get the information they need when they need it.
The first step in solving this problem caused by unstructured information is to adopt a framework for the management work process. Once you have a work process framework that is adopted by the entire organization, efficient use of information is much easier to control.
Management Work Process
The work managers do can be organized into three main areas: strategy management, project management, and people management.
Strategy Management: This work involves developing and following a standardized process for making and communicating decisions related to the organization’s or department’s focus, values, strategic goals, measurements, and initiatives.
Project Management: This involves developing and following a project management methodology that is standard throughout the organization. Common steps in a project management methodology are: prioritizing, capacity planning, writing a business case, developing the project charter, determining the project schedule, determining meeting and communication process, listing lessons learned, and maintaining project content for future knowledge.
People Management: This involves developing and following a standardized people management process. Common components of a people management methodology are: ensuring individual and team accountability, developing competency and leadership skills, coaching for employee engagement and performance, managing resources, and instituting pay and recognition programs.
The second step in solving the unstructured information problem is to analyze information needs of each management area listed above to see where there are opportunities for improvement – in terms of both quality and quantity.
A good way to determine how effectively you are doing in each of these three management areas is to conduct a “communication architecture review.” This is done by evaluating each of those three in terms of reports generated and meetings attended.
The evaluation for all three components should start with the following:
- List of meetings attended and short explanation of purpose of meeting
- Who attends these meetings
- Rating of whether the meeting is beneficial (or should be eliminated)
- List of any meetings that should be added with short explanation of why
- List of reports generated and short explanation of their purpose
- Who creates these reports
- Who uses these reports
- Rating of whether the report is beneficial (or should be eliminated)
The results on meetings and reports should be summarized and evaluated. Decisions are made regarding meetings and reports. Most importantly, these decisions indicate what meetings and reports
Based on the “new meetings and reporting” process you have developed, you can now organize your unstructured information on your network based on the management framework and results from your “communication architecture review.” When you next need information/reports for a decision, whether during a performance/coaching meeting, project meeting, or a strategy meeting, you will have everything you need at your disposal.
The final step is, of course, to implement your new meeting and reporting process. Make sure to monitor the effectiveness of your new plan so that you can make continual improvements as you go along.
Taking a proactive approach to managing “unstructured” information should give tremendous efficiencies back to your managers so they can do the important work they were hired to accomplish. Based on the data provided by Gartner in the beginning of this article, there are too many organizations out there whose managers are wasting time and money by fruitlessly searching for and retrieving information. These unstructured barriers neutralize their talents and efforts. Rescue your organization by creating a proactive environment of constantly evaluating processes in the three management areas. Your efforts will result in a streamlined organization that’s always on the move to improve.For more information on this topic, contact