Organizational Reliability

Jason SachsDecember 22, 20111 comment

I was cleaning out my email inbox at work today and ran across something I had forwarded on to a friend a few years ago, which I thought I would share, for those of you who are working in the engineering world.

Below is a handout I got about 10 years ago from Doug Field, an executive now at Apple. Doug is a superb and inspiring leader, whom I had the opportunity to work with briefly.

The following is a bit of a diversion from the topics I usually post, but is some good food for thought for how to work effectively as a team, as we approach the new year.


Organizational Reliability

  • Hold yourself to a higher standard than any other person would consider appropriate.
  • Take very seriously the simple, daily commitments you make to teammates and outside organizations.
    • If you're going to miss a commitment, state it as soon as you know it.
    • Be careful about over-commitment.
    • Be humble and aware of your limitations; do not be afraid to state when you are not able to commit. This is infinitely better than committing and not delivering.
    • As a leader, be explicit about which tasks require high-reliability delivery.
  • Treat time as your most precious resource. Do not squander others' time.
  • If you're going to be unavailable to your teammates, make it explicit:
    • Notify your leader in advance of a planned absence.
    • E-mail a notification of office absences to your teammates and the front desk.
    • If you have numerous people outside the organization who rely upon you, consider changing your voice mail message in your absence.
  • When you realize you've missed a commitment, take immediate steps to correct it.
  • When a teammate misses a commitment, take immediate steps to help them correct it -- do not assume that you have the role of pointing it out to them unless you've made such an agreement with that person (if you are that person's leader, you already have that agreement).
  • When overloaded by a factor of 2, do not perform all tasks at 50% reliability -- "manytasking" is the biggest killer of efficiency. Slow down, prioritize, and choose the items which you will execute with the highest standards. Even more importantly, notify those affected by tasks which do not make your priority list.
  • Take responsibility for all your actions. Do not leave chaos and frenzy in your wake.
  • Take cues from high-reliability organizations like Air Traffic Control:
    • Airplanes always read-back their assignments to the tower.
    • When a maneuver is executed the airplane confirms it ("I haven't heard from him" is not the same as "the task is complete").
    • Transfer of control responsibility is explicit: notification to the airplane of the new responsible controller, the airplace checks in with the new controller, the new controller accepts responsibility.
  • Do not be afraid to demand these standards from your teammates, but do it with respect and understanding.

Previous post by Jason Sachs:
   Help, My Serial Data Has Been Framed: How To Handle Packets When All You Have Are Streams
Next post by Jason Sachs:
   Stairway to Thévenin


Comments:

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Comment by CryptomanJune 30, 2012
The bullets are spot on. My favorite top three are as follows: "Hold yourself to a higher standard than any other person would consider appropriate." "Treat time as your most precious resource. Do not squander others' time." "Take responsibility for all your actions. Do not leave chaos and frenzy in your wake." I also have a couple to add from personal experience: - Do not let the workplace politics to get in the way of getting the job done. - Always remember that your actions can cause your boss to lose money. Act responsibly and do not ever gamble with someone else's cash.

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