Don’t sweat the small stuff

by | Mar 24, 2016

Apparently the devil is in the detail, and for a lot of my clients, when I first meet them, they’ve had enough of the Devil and his pesky detail.

This is the problem; you see your data and/or database in its entirety, and by default, all of its problems. You see “We can’t use our database!” or “Our data is rubbish!” and then you poke around and see the many issues that build up into an insurmountable problem. From here it’s hard to come back, and hard to find a sensible place to start trying to fix this über issue.

Without a doubt this mind-set is what keeps inactivity going – making the issue bigger and bigger as time goes on. How on earth can you pull back from this inertia and start to take positive action?

Some, but not all of, of my clients get me to carry out a database audit. This is a great place to start – and it doesn’t need me to do it. Spend a few hours systematically going through all the bits of your database (you can get to). Make a list of every single problem you can find. Every niggle, every misplacement of data. It doesn’t have to be pretty – this is not a time to think of good grammar – just get the information on a piece of paper. Post It notes are particularly useful for this.

Once this has been done split the tasks into 3 groups: business critical absolutely must be done, business critical but does not have to be done immediately and nice-to-have longer term tasks. If necessary use scissors and cut your list up into the individual tasks.

Next take the business critical pile. Play around with putting each task in the pile in order; the most important at the top working down to the least important. A word of warning though, you need to consider that some lesser tasks may need to be done before a more important one. This is because there is a dependency – the more important task cannot be completed before the other one. This does mess the system up a little (as well as messing with your head) but if you understand why you are doing something out of the order of priority then it will make more sense and sit more comfortably within the whole project.

Once the business critical pile is done, work through the next two piles until all of the tasks are placed in a descending order of priority.

That insurmountable problem you had just got easier; it really is that simple. Rather than looking at the entire database you can now pick off the top task on the list and work through it. Dealing with this one activity without the noise of everything else will make it much more do-able. I have clients who have worked through the list themselves once I’ve created it. It has the same effect – much less onerous when you are dealing with moving a single code from this place to this. There’s also a much quicker reward on offer – once an individual task is completed there is a sense of satisfaction, something that is not available when looking at the whole problem.

I’m sure for many of you I’ve just taught your granny to suck eggs, but it’s surprising how much the sense of being overwhelmed by data (you may not find it easy to get to grips with) affects the organisations ability to progress sales, fundraising or marketing. Don’t feel bogged down… let’s talk.

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