I have been self-employed for 16 years as an independent trader, now a translator. Prior to this, I was an Access developer and business analyst, but I retained a passionate interest in business management tools.
I regularly overhaul my management architecture, to try and find the best configuration to manage my business and my information flows. I’m constantly on the lookout for useful, innovative, practical tools to manage my emails, my orders, plan my production, execute orders and get some useful statistics to manage my business.
Interest in Management Methods
There are the tools but also the theoretical side – the theory of management. I have done quite a bit of reading on the subject and I’m particularly interested in Getting Things Done (GTD), which is a method of management promoted by David Allen. It provides simple concepts such as Next Action to help focus the mind on what you can actually do next, rather than procrastinating about the workload.
I read with interest theories such as Eisenhower decision-making, a simple way to think about your priorities and tasks in terms of a simple grid of urgency against importance.
I looked carefully at How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen, a single book for the Harvard Business Review which set me on course to find Purpose, to think about objectives and how to measure whether diverging or converging with a path towards those objectives, and the ensuing internal discussion about whether I am setting myself SMART objectives (Single Measureable Achievable Realistic Time bounded).
I was interested in Kepner Tregoe, a handy guide to defining, monitoring and controlling projects, a subject of keen interest as I have been involved in quite a few development projects.
The Right Tools to Manage
Today my focus is on finding the right tools to manage my business – the right business management tools.
I also have over the last 10 years been keen to model the way I see my business operating and use it as a basis for improvement. The model, together with measurements, invites reflection on whether the objectives I set are achievable but also whether they are the ones I want.
So there is a constant reflection, analysis and reanalysis of the current system, situation, trajectory, desired outcomes and likely outcomes of the current trajectory.
But experience has taught me that to maintain, update or change that trajectory requires action inside or outside a project. If the reflection is to be beneficial, then organise work-related actions as efficiently as possible into current production and future production capacity. See Effectiveness.
One significant conclusion that I’ve made is that – although there are surely other ways to do this – that the organisation of tasks, actions, objectives and outcomes is helped by the tools that we use.
But whatever the configuration of tools that you use to organise your business whether it be SAP or Excel, the important thing is to keep an eye open on whether your configuration is still appropriate.
Is your software configuration is still appropriate?
Are you capturing opportunities and transforming them into orders?
Do you have a systematic process for capturing opportunities and transforming them into orders?
Is your organisation responding to market demands and if the market changes, is your organisation flexible enough to respond?
If you wanted to respond to changing the changing market, how would you do it, how would you change the trajectory of your organisation?
These might seem like hypothetical questions. If you are a plumber, you might not ask yourself whether there are opportunities in hairdressing and convert – probably too radical. But you might look at new technologies in the plumbing market and decide that technology x is more efficient, take a training course and then look at whether that has made you cost savings and improved your turnover.
The point here is about flexibility, and whether your capacity to organise and your state of mind allow you to take on new projects. I believe that this flexibility of mind is aided and assisted by the tools that we use. Can I enter a new project in my software, and start to consider its impact on current work? Just consider it. If I feel that I am very disorganised I would probably not even consider new projects and therefore pass by a new opportunity.
Setting and Achieving Objectives
So the tools help but with what? The effort of planning, setting objectives, organising your time, your actions and next actions are within a context of professional achievement and satisfaction.
What satisfaction to fix an objective, determine where I want to be in the future and put in place actions to get there, evaluating the pitfalls, planning contingency actions, acting in project mode while still managing current professional and personal priorities.
I urge you therefore to look at the task management tools discussed here and to read about GTD and the measThisurement of trajectory. I advise you to think about your configuration and whether it is optimal, the changes you would make to your situation and your life and how you could put those changes into practice.