One Action That Will Change Your Life (And of those around you) – Remove In-trays!!!

As some of you may know, I took over the administration of a local government as CEO this week. My appointment is temporary, but I have never been one to let the dust settle.

Steering, not rowing – try it!

In my previous post I set out my plan of attack to hit the ground running. I can safely say that at the end of Week 1, I nailed it. How do I know this? Council commented that an air of confidence had returned. By the middle of the week, all staff were back to starting on time. Heads were raised, voices animated and collaboration going on.

A key focus for me throughout the week was the development of a message that would resonate, make staff think. At the “all in staff” meeting this week, which this organisation has not experienced previously, I stressed how I operate:

  • I have a strategic mind set – my aim is to steer the organisation, not row;
  • I do not use in-trays;
  • I expect the number of emails to reduce significantly;
  • I am open and transparent – what I know, you know;
  • I like to have fun, won’t tolerate gossip and I don’t play favourites.

The one point from above that had the greatest impact – “I do not use in-trays.”

See: Reclaim Your Space

Now this organisation, like any good organisation, uses a range of information technology effectively. Collaborative apps and systems are used and documents can be booked in and out electronically (this system is clunky at the moment, but we will get there). However, there is still a vast array of documents that must be signed off manually.

Staff were used to putting said documents in various in-trays for the CEO to peruse, authorise and return.

Apart from this, there were piles of documents in the CEO’s office – it was worse than walking into the overcrowded lawyer’s office you see in TV shows.

So, the next day, as I’m walking through the main administration, and as expected, staff asked me where to put the documents they need me to review and approve, as there were no longer any in-trays.

I stopped, smiled and said: I will review and approve matters as we go. You bring the report, letter, payment authorisation or whatever else it is straight into my office and I will deal with it there and then. Side note: I’m also in the process of setting up executive support. Such support hasn’t been on-site for some time.

Then I was asked – “what we do when you are unavailable, at meetings, away on business?”

I responded quite simply: “you hang on to your piece of paper until I return. Then come in and talk to me about it.”

Now some of you may be very sceptical of this approach. However, I learnt a long time ago that managing paper and emails is essential. If you declutter your work environment you will move mountains very quickly. Staff will respond positively because their work is no longer consigned to the blackhole of “whatever happened to that report I gave you six months ago.”

Trust the records management system.

So, where did we end up at the end of Week 1? I let the administration staff go home half an hour early 😊

A shot yesterday at sunrise of where I am staying at the moment – yes folks, on a farm that is literally 5 minutes from work.

8 Comments on “One Action That Will Change Your Life (And of those around you) – Remove In-trays!!!”

  1. I LOVE the idea of getting rid of in trays! And I can understand why your approach works much better.I think that the staff members will feel like they are being respected and taken notice of with this too. My daughter is the VP of a professional ice hockey team and she has staff and sponsors etc to deal with. I am going to pass on your idea to her as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful photos. Well done. A good management is essential to tackle those issues. I used to be a team manager once and I disliked it very much since I was no good. LOL.


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