Every single week the Office of President receives 65,000 paper letters, 500,000 emails, 5,000 faxes, and 15,000 phone calls (as told by Daniel Levitin in The Organized Mind). You can’t wing that type of workload. A system that sorts and prioritizes and ensures the right people are given responsibility and authority is essential.
While that much work likely does not come through your inbox or phone, over time the amount of work in your ministry or organization will increase. More people being served results in more communication, more decisions, and more work. As work increases, systems and processes to accomplish the work are necessary so things don’t spin into utter chaos.
And one thing you must do, in any organization, is operationalize learning. Operationalizing learning means designing transferrable systems around what people are regularly doing to execute all that is being executed. In most organizations, a lot of the important work is kept in people’s heads, which limits the collective potential of the team. When understanding of how to accomplish something is only in someone on your team’s mind, it is very hard to scale work because everyone has to go to the person who knows everything about a particular topic. “Oh, for this issue, go see Greg, and for this, talk to Amber” isn’t a great way to work over a sustained period of time. Amber and Greg won’t be able to handle this either. When a person who knows everything about a certain area of responsibility leaves the team, work can be adversely impacted.
Daniel Levitin says that “externalizing memory” is essential to ensuring work can be sustained and expanded. How things get done must move from people’s minds to processes that everyone can see. Here are four ways to ensure the important practices on your team are captured so they can continue and expand, four ways to ensure learning is operationalized or memory is externalized:
1. Job Profiles
I know they sound boring, but they are important. They help clarify what each role on the team is designed to accomplish. Without job profiles it is hard to transfer work when someone leaves or scale work when new opportunities occur.
Job profiles capture what work is being done, checklists capture how the work is done. A great read on the importance of checklists is The Checklist Manifesto. Checklists are more important as an organization expands and grows.
Without training, best practices and learning will not be rooted in the collective practice of the team.
4. Meetings Around Job or Discipline
Meetings that gather team members together from the same disciplines but in different parts of the organization are different than the regular rhythm of meetings people have with their immediate teams. Some call these “communities of practice.” A church may have three campuses and the children’s ministry leaders report to the campus pastor, but a kids community of practice, where those leaders meet, helps the same processes get implemented across the whole. Or marketing strategists may report to different directors and leaders in a large organization, but getting them together regularly helps operationalize how work is accomplished.
If learning and understanding about how work is accomplished is not operationalized, scaling will not occur smoothly.