The Balancing Act

The term “Multitasking” is used so frequently these days.  We see it in job descriptions – “candidate must be able to multitask” – and also experience it (or at least have the need for it) in our daily lives.  I must admit that I am always striving to improve my ability to multitask.  I put significant focus into just about everything I do.  My wife likes to give me a hard time about this, but I remind her “quality over quantity”.  I did some “research” for this blog and I found that, according to the experts, the human brain cannot really multitask effectively.  But I probably won’t mention that to my wife.

This got me thinking about the struggle and balance between “switching” and “focusing” within our organization.  After all, we are an engineering and technical company.  Almost everything we do has a significant amount of focus required in order to achieve success with a project, machine, or system.  At the same time, changing conditions, requirements, and a number of other factors make the ability to toggle absolutely necessary.  We don’t want our design engineers or programmers doing anything with haste.  But we always have schedules, deadlines, and the curveballs thrown to us by the outside world.  So how do we reconcile these two? 

First, an appreciation for a diversity of skillsets, their respective contributions, and collaboration with others, is critical.  Saint Paul was referring to the church, not a business, when he gave the example of all parts of the body being necessary for everything to work together.  But I think this mindset works pretty good for an organization as well.  Surprisingly, many businesses seem to ignore this point.  One group is viewed as critical, another ancillary.  Segmentation occurs and rather than having “one team” it becomes “several departments”.  In our company, we provide turnkey automation services.  We must concept, sell, engineer, construct, install, and commission complex electrical and mechanical projects.  Without subject matter experts in each of these areas, it would not be possible to execute the necessary tasks for a successful project.  I often tell friends in conversation “every employee of our company is a skilled employee”.  Mechanical engineers, machinists, controls engineers, welders, technical salespeople, programmers, project managers, electronic technicians, and more make up our team.  But all of these specialties must collaborate early and often to understand the overall impact on the finished product.  I am glad to say that we make this effort a priority.  Beyond that, we realize that it is a present and future challenge and must be viewed as a continuous improvement project that never ends.

Another important factor is proper prioritization and timing.  Project Management is absolutely critical to “gluing” the various skillsets together in the proper order and magnitude.  Done correctly, this ensures that the “focus” items get the proper time and attention, while the more erratic elements of a project are dealt with effectively and in parallel.

Finally, understanding client needs and opportunities cannot be understated.  We challenge ourselves every day to avoid being a “transactional vendor” and to aspire to be a “value-add partner”.  This changes the mindset from one that is temporary in nature, to one that is viewed as a continuum.  Small and large projects and services are all building blocks necessary to achieve this.  There is a progression that you can see with this type of approach from “being told what the client wants” to “anticipating what the client needs”.  One reason that I enjoy our particular business and industry so much is that is presents these types of opportunities every day.  Good personal relationships within our families and friends should be top priority, but good business relationships sure are nice as well.  I have been fortunate to have many great firsthand business relationships over the years.  But what excites me even more is seeing these grow between our employees and our clients at all levels of the respective organizations.

Back to the continuous improvement note.  We say it more simply around here – “we should get better every day”.  So we will continue to challenge ourselves to do just that when it comes to how we work together, how we manage, and how we grow with our clients as partners.

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