This post is a revision from a previously popular post.
I’ve never understood why so few leaders use Leader Standardized Work (LSW). Talking with many leaders over the years, the explanation I hear most is that they don't have standard repeatable work or tasks. Baloney! All leaders have regular actions that they must or want to take on an ongoing basis. Examples include budget reviews, team member 1:1s, Gemba (go to the workplace), submitting your monthly business expenses, and many others. So if the "standardized work" wording is a barrier to using LSW, in HPL's new fall 'Lunch and Lead' program called "4-steps to Time Shifting - making time for the things that really matter", I've rephrased it to "Prioritized Leader Actions" or PLA. Ultimately, I think it more accurately reflects the intent relating to leadership responsibilities. Leaders are too often 'fighting fires,' and I believe a significant cause of this is that they are not proactive enough! Yes, it's only a name change, but unfortunately, I think the name LSW casts a negative perception on many to the point that they don't even consider it. So, let's talk about Prioritized Leader Actions (PLA)!
I’ve found PLA to be a great tool to help me be a more consistent and effective leader. I’ve used PLA for years. For me, it’s my little voice reminding me of the most important things I need to do or that I want to do to be successful when leading. These are my priorities. Regardless of your responsibility, there is an inevitable component of it that is repeatable; therefore, Prioritized Leader Actions are for, well, everyone! It's not just a manufacturing thing!!!
Here are some key points I found helpful when it comes to PLA:
1. Set up PLA with a designated section for daily, weekly, monthly and Mid-long term (quarterly, semi-annual) based on the frequency of completion of the task or action.
2. Place tasks in the PLA that are important to YOU that you must get done and those that you want to complete, check, or confirm because they are essential to you or your business.
3. Set your PLA up on a monthly basis, refreshing it at the beginning of each month.
4. Have a method within the PLA to indicate which days you are on vacation and identify when you are out of the office on business. Doing so will help you plan more effectively when you complete tasks, or it will provide you with the opportunity to delegate if necessary.
5. PLA should be dynamic, not static. It’s OK to add and remove items from your PLA. However, as priorities change, new systems develop, metrics improve or degrade, you may find that you need to adjust what you’re doing or what you’re checking and confirming.
6. PLA is for you, not anyone else. It’s OK to show people your PLA, but I don’t advocate posting it. It’s more effective if you carry it with you at all times to help you execute it versus showing others. As a leader, you should also check your team's PLA periodically.
7. If you’re not getting to something on your PLA, don’t beat yourself up; instead, find the root cause for not getting it done and determine what you need to do differently to achieve it. After all, the items on your PLA were put there by you because you either need to get them done as a core responsibility of your job or they are most important to you. Then, use it to improve your self-discipline, motivate you, or remind you to just do it!
8. PLA must be integral to your planning system and routine. It must integrate with your schedule, follow-up system, and to-do lists.
9. Print out your PLA for the month, update it daily as you complete tasks daily, and “pencil” in additional PLA tasks as you’re thinking of them throughout the month.
10. When you get busy, that’s when you need your PLA the most. Please don’t abandon it, then. Instead, use it to help you get the most important things done. Then, when you can’t do everything, use it to make an informed decision as to what will and will not get done.
I use an Excel spreadsheet for my PLA. To make things easier, I've added some conditional formatting for the visibility of weekends, business travel, or when out on vacation. I prepare the PLA for the month, print it out, and then use it daily by marking tasks using a pen. PLA is integral to my daily, weekly, and monthly planning system.
Check out our 'Tools' page to download a template of my PLA to use for yourself. Then, modify it as necessary to make it work for you.
I hope you found this helpful. Are there any key points I've missed or, in your experience, you feel are most important?
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