I’m part of an incredible team, small but nimble, with the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA). By working in this environment, it has allowed us to stay constant in our communication, ensure staff flexibility, and reduce the departmental silos inherent in larger organizations. The small dynamic staff has enhanced our ability to work through and turn around resolutions to unforeseen complications and execute last minute additions/changes to projects in a short period of time. However, having a small staff also provides a level of pressure to produce. The members we serve envision our organization as setting the agenda for the future. With this knowledge, we find it difficult not to add the pressure on ourselves. With direct contact to our members, business partners and fellow staff members, there is a spotlight on everything we do which highlights any mistakes. Everyone always feels the need to be at peak performance.
Your membership does not want to feel like they are part of a small organization, adding the pressure to live up to high expectations with few resources. Not an easy task. Thankfully, with proper planning and communication, there are tools to ease some of that pressure and meet these big expectations.
I am a planner through and through, in all aspects of my life. Even on vacation, I create and maintain a spreadsheet down to the hour, much to the chagrin of my family. On the other hand, it serves me very well professionally. At SHEA, we map out our entire year, listing anything happening or launching in a specific month. By visually seeing where our workload is higher or lower, it is easier to see how tasks can be shifted to maximize our time.
Another tool we use is called the ‘Parking Lot’. As you’ve most likely experienced, no matter how thorough your strategic planning is at the beginning of the year, suddenly new tasks get dropped into your lap either internally from staff and business partners or externally from your membership. Ideally, we would like to be able to complete our established tasks in addition to these new ones, but this simply isn’t realistic with our limited capacity and resources. This is where the visual aspects of a parking lot list can help.
Throughout the year, take time to create a visual ‘parking lot’ list in the office with access for all staff. The ‘parking lot’ list should be populated each time a new idea is proposed that falls outside your yearly plan. Commit, as a team, to tack at least one to two great ideas a year. In using this tool, you can identify where you have availability for tasks, find ideas that overlap and discover efficient ways to utilize your resources to support multiple ideas. You may even be able to mark the ideas you’ve researched which are not in the best interest of your organization or are unattainable at this time, allowing you to save time on future explorations.
Once you have executed these new ideas, determine if they worked based on your goals and spend some additional time figuring out ways to streamline the process in order to move on to another great idea. Parking lot lists have been very helpful in preventing us from overloading ourselves by enabling us to better manage both our existing workload and new “pop-up” tasks.