Friday, November 14, 2014

The Size of Your Organization's Toolbox

This article from Stephen Gill's Performance Improvement blog discusses how a worker's primary skill in the modern age is his or her ability to learn and learn fast. The driving force for all this learning is, of course, the swift current of technological progress.

One challenge I have been noticing of late, that exists beyond the question of learning, is the selection and use of tools that support learning and/or the transference of the information that supports that activity for groups. I have found myself in many cross-functional meetings with agenda topics that focus on what tool would be the best to adopt for a particular activity or set of activities. Inevitably there is a different tool offered by each person. Or so it seems, at least.

The goal of such conversations of course is to prevent a workplace workbench that looks like this:

The fact is there are plenty of tools. Information dissemination tools; Cloud file management tools; project management tools; communication tools; media creation tools; etc. The problem in selecting the best tools for your organizational toolbox often is hinges on factors such as:
  • Tools and habits of your client - Your clients are organizations too, and they will surely have selected tools that ostensibly suit their needs. Introducing tools your organization uses can cause some friction, particularly if security measures become involved.
  • Tools and habits of individuals within your group or company - Members of your team likely have a set of tools they prefer using for personal reasons. Some tools within your company or group likely are used simply because they are the tools someone else used from way back when.
  • Feasibility for the organization in its current state - There may be some tools that would offer significant improvements in process, but the organization or group doesn't have the physical or procedural infrastructure to support it.
  • Information security - If a client's, your organization's, or your group's activities are sensitive to the kind of exposure that external failures can present, your selection of tools is likely to be narrow.

Cost can sometimes be a factor as well, especially if the tool is intended to serve a wide array of functions or serve as the platform for major activities. But, in this day and age, there are at least a few tools you can try out before potentially having to buy one. Based on the kinds of such discussions I've been a part of recently, some of the most important considerations in tool selection are:
  • The ease of integration of a particular tool and the time it takes to access it (does it require bookmarking a site, then creating an account, then logging in each time? Or, does it have a single sign-on facility that turns the tool into a 1-click activity?
  • The mobility rating of the tool - does the tool in question have a smartphone and/or tablet version that could give you and your colleagues added flexibility to close work objectives on the fly?
  • The habits the tool could introduce - will a tool change your organization's habits for the better? Are the internal processes in place to support the opportunity for the tool to make a positive impact?

What are your thoughts? How often does the discussion of the organizational toolset arise for you?

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