After a few false starts, spring seems to finally be here for good. As we open windows and begin to enjoy longer days, sometimes we literally see our home in a different light—and it’s not always a good sight. Dusty corners, neglected stacks of old paperwork, clutter and smudges that seem to appear out of nowhere prompt us to schedule some time for the ritual of spring cleaning.
In organizational life, too, it’s important to stop from time to time and take a look around with fresh eyes. Where could your team use some work?
One helpful technique is to imagine you’re bringing in a new employee, investor, or consultant. What things might look less than ideal to an outsider? If there’s something you’d have to explain, it may be something you need to fix.
Here are some spring cleaning ideas:
Working relationships. Even if everyone gets along and works together, are people truly invested in each other as teammates? If not, you may want to schedule some time for them to interact on a personal level. It can be as elaborate as a weekend retreat or as simple as a 30-minute ice cream break on Friday afternoons during the summer. You can also foster connections with the work itself. Instead of making individual assignments for a project, broaden the tasks a bit and assign them to pairs or small groups to bring together people from different functional areas, encourage collaboration and help your team understand each member’s strengths and abilities.
Processes. If you’re doing things the same way you were doing them 10 or even five years ago, chances are good that you’re overlooking a better way. If you don’t have a structure in place to regularly review your critical process and recommend updates, it’s time to start. Recruit the people who work with the process every day for input, and make sure they’re connected to professional organizations and online discussions where they can learn best practices and discover new ideas.
Physical Environment. If you have a physical office, the rules of clutter that apply to your home are just as valid. That broken computer at the back, the stacks of papers, the dried-out old pens all need to go. Are there files that can be scanned and archived electronically — or just tossed? Identify a time when workload permits and schedule an afternoon clearing-out party with bins designated for things to recycle, donate, and toss. (Remember to have a shredder on hand for sensitive files, and to keep secure, hard copies on archival paper of critical documents.)
Electronic Upgrades. How long has it been since you refreshed the look and feel of your website, or checked the deep pages to make sure the information is still current? Are your backups automatic, reliable and accessible? Is security sufficient? Do people have adequate access to shared files? Make sure your electronic organization is well structured and current. If there are areas of longstanding low-level frustration, like a printer that has to be constantly reset, set aside time to figure out and implement a real solution.
It’s easy to tell yourself that your team is too busy for this kind of thing, but remember that maintenance saves time, trouble, and money in the long run. If spring is your busiest season, pick another time—but make it happen. Your reward will likely be a happier and more productive team.