1. Dubai We Learn – Enabling Happiness

    September 3, 2019 by BPIR.com Limited
    By Dr. Almas Tazein, BPIR.com Limited, COER

    The Community Health Authority answering questions on their project at the recent Knowledge Sharing Summit

    We cannot cherry pick pleasant times – certainly not when we are operating the gigantic machinery called public service and governance. It can sometimes open a Pandora’s box of unpredictable internal complexities. Hence, there are programs like Dubai We Learn – Dubai Government Excellence Program (DGEP) that can safely anchor the government authorities to their organisational mission. And, the Community Development Authority (CDA) is one inspiring story to tell.

    An external evaluation conducted by the Dubai Government Excellence Program (DGEP) at the Community Development Authority showed a downward spiral in the employee experiential domains – employee happiness, employee satisfaction, sense of harmony, and commitment & loyalty. The results steadily moved south in 2016-2017-2018. The areas of concern were HR Department & procedures, leadership style, work environment, and issues related to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), motivation, appreciation and incentives.

    But the CDA is determined to swim against the tide and take the horse by its reins!

    CDA’s Enabling Happiness initiative is one of 11 aspiring Dubai Government’s transformation management projects. The Enabling Happiness project wishes to identify and implement best practices that engage, empower, and enlighten employees leading to elevated levels of employee happiness, loyalty, motivation, communication, innovation and productivity.

    On Tuesday 30 July 2019, The Center for Organisational Excellence Research (COER) Team which is facilitating the 11 Dubai We Learn project initiatives alongside DGEP, visited CDA to evaluate the progress of the project. The project had started in February 2019.

    Mr. Ahmad Mofleh Al Gharaibeh, Director General Advisor, Institutional Processes & Services Excellence, CDA shared the early measures taken to combat the situation and this was impressive!

    The CDA decided to positively strengthen the demotivated personnel by engaging in QUICK WINS over the past two months (for Q1 & Q2). The happiness restoration method includes a number of initiatives – three exciting initiatives to motivate the employees, four types of communication channels were designed to promote team solidarity & amiability, and measures taken to fortify training, development & rewards.

    Quick wins already implemented since the start of the project

    During the meeting, Dr. Robin Mann, Director, COER emphasized that, in order to trace the impact of the initiatives it is important to compare the past and the present evaluations, taking into account measures such as employee turnover rate, absenteeism, sickness days and employee grievances. To have factual figures on whether they have produced the desired or near-desired outcomes is only practical. This will prove to be of substantial significance in the further decision-making of the improvement process at CDA; and ensure that the Human Resource Department’s role will be far-reaching.

    Currently, CDA is in the AQUIRE Stage of the TRADE Benchmarking Methodology, which is the operational framework for Dubai We Learn initiatives. The COER team members further recommended some best practices that the CDA can explore to enrich their employee camaraderie & communication. Further, Mr. Ahmad, CDA, presented the outcomes of their successful benchmarking meetings with Dubai Courts, Dubai KHDA and Dubai Statistics Center to learn their approaches in employee engagement and motivation. He also expressed CDA’s plans of carrying out regular meetings with the Director General, Sponsors, Section Managers and other team members to ensure maximum stakeholder participation and involvement.

    A benchmarking visit to Dubai Statistics

    In the next DEPLOY Stage – TRADE methodology, CDA is expecting greater involvement from the HR Department to enhance the success quotient of the entire project. In this phase, their objective is to target leading initiatives in governance, empowerment, policy & procedures, and leadership programs.

    Dr. Robin Mann reinforced that, after the REVIEW Stage of TRADE, common challenges/issues should be categorized and prioritized and then CDA should decide how many of them to tackle as part of the benchmarking project. Following on from this, if CDA identified 5 major issues to address then best practices for each of them should be sought in the AQUIRE stage of TRADE, therefore the REVIEW and ACQUIRE stage should be connected. He also emphasized that a Roadmap for the next one to two years should be developed once the ACQUIRE stage was completed. Based on CDA’s time-plan this could be developed by the end of October 2019 and signed off by the Project Sponsor.

    The COER team met Mr. Ahmad Julfar, Director General, CDA. He shared his vision of successfully developing a robust people-centric CDA to fulfil its mission of developing social services in alignment with the Dubai Government’s goals of attaining sustainable development and a cohesive happy society that enhances their National identity and strengthens empowerment and community engagement.

    The CDA-Enabling Happiness project is on track to rise and shine to outsmart all the challenges witnessed. CDA’s commitment and progress is indication enough that the final portrait of this team’s picture will be celebratory!

    For more information on Dubai We Learn contact:

    Dr. Zeyad Mohammad El Kahlout, Senior Quality and Excellence Advisor, Dubai Government Excellence Program (DGEP). Email: Zeyad.ElKahlout@tec.gov.ae


  2. Building Highly Effective Teams

    August 31, 2019 by BPIR.com Limited
    This article has been provided by Dr. Omer Tigani, Organizational Excellence Specialists

    There is a commonly used saying that ‘people are the backbone of any organization’. However, it is suggested that human resources provide even more extensive support as they are at the heart of the entire management system, producing products and delivering services and enabling the organization to remain relevant and to survive in the marketplace. So how does an organization capitalize on this most important asset, build on the talent of their people and develop highly effective teams?

    Highly Effective Teams
    A team is a group of people working together to achieve a shared purpose and goal(s). Human resources of today’s organization tend to perform their day-to-day operations in teams. Those teams can be structured according to the organizational chart or can be unstructured and teams can be permanent or temporal. Table 1 describes different types of teams. The individuals in highly effective teams are committed to results, accountable and consistently deliver superior results and exceed expectations. The success of the team is paramount and supersedes the personal agenda of any one of the team members

    Tuckman Team Model
    In 1965, Bruce Wayne Tuckman (researcher, consultant and Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology at Ohio University) proposed the four stages of group development (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing) as necessary and inevitable stages or phases that should take place in sequence for any group of people or team to grow and achieve a desired outcome. In 1977, Tuckman added the fifth stage Adjourning (Figure 1).

    In light of the Tuckman Model stages, there is merit in discussing the dos, don’ts and the role of team leaders at each stage that contribute to highly effective teams in organizations.

    Stage 1: Forming
    Highly effective teams are formed from individuals who possess the suitable knowledge and experience necessary to achieve the desired outcomes of the team.

    In the Forming stage, the team’s purpose, mission, long-term goals and short-term objectives must be identified, well communicated and agreed upon by all team members. The team leader role in this instance is to communicate the team’s purpose, mission, long-term goals and short-term objectives to the team numerous times (7 times or more) to ensure that every individual on the team understands, has buy-in and will work with the rest of the team to achieve such. It follows that any related changes or updates that need to take place will be well communicated too.

    Having the work processes set and the roles and responsibilities of team members identified and agreed upon in the Forming stage are extremely important to help the team cooperate and work together to achieve a successful outcome. For highly effective teams, roles and responsibilities should be established fairly among the team individuals and in careful consideration to their background and experiences.

    In the Forming stage, the highly effective team drafts a Communication Agreement in which vertical and horizontal channels are identified. This Agreement sets the expectation for each team member such as: how feedback should be given, what to do when expectations are not met and how to respond to feedback, and so forth.

    The team leader plays an important role in setting the team rules and core values. Some commonly used core values may include:

    • Teamwork
    • Respect
    • Transparency
    • Honesty
    • Integrity
    • Professionalism
    • Continuous Learning
    • Continual Improvement
    • Excellence
    • Quality

    Stage 2: Storming
    In the Storming stage, it’s a newly formed team with individuals that have been recently brought together. These individuals have different backgrounds, experiences and personalities and each team member may join with his/her own understanding, priorities and agenda. Although the team’s direction may have been set in the Forming stage, there may be differences in perception when the team puts the plan into action. As a result, disputes and differences may arise and affect team performance.

    Effective communication is the key to overcoming these differences. The team leader must be a good role model for effective communication. This role is characterized by communicating clearly, being straightforward, providing constructive feedback and listening actively. As Tom Peter’s says “team leaders should not be 18-second managers”! Effective communication will play an important role in building trust among the team members and will pave the way for them to feel confident about peer intentions and alignment with the agreed upon direction.

    Managing conflicts will also be important at this stage. Conflict can be defined as ‘any tension, real or perceived, visible or hidden, clearly understood or not, between the important interests held by one or more people’. Team leaders must consider the breadth and depth of conflict when trying to manage it.
    For example:

    • Conflicts are inevitable and may occur at any time among the members regardless of their organizational levels and/or positions
    • Conflicts are not only about real, visible, clearly understood tensions. Team leaders should also be attentive to perceived, hidden, not clearly understood tensions and manage these conflicts as well. Much time and effort can be saved in managing conflict in the early stage when it is more simple and straightforward and has not had a chance to escalate
    • Conflicts may be caused by not satisfying human interests that are held by one or more individual(s) or group(s). Thus it is beneficial for team leaders to understand the origin of the conflict or the motivation of their team members. Remaining knowledgeable and curious about these motivations and having open discussions will provide a valuable learning experience for all parties. Such undertakings will pave the way for effective resolution of the conflict and for stronger and healthier relationships going forward
    • Team leaders must understand their role is not to resolve conflicts but to manage it so the team can perform well. This undertaking will help the team leader and members to focus on overcoming challenges and moving towards achieving the team’s agreed upon aim
    • Conflicts provide an opportunity (if effectively managed) to learn more about the team members and to strengthen relationships

    Stage 3: Norming
    Once conflicts are effectively managed in the Storming stage, the Norming stage has team members focus on setting norms and ensuring all work processes are in place and functioning well for the benefit of the team. The level of team cohesiveness at this stage is largely determined by the level of conformance to the acceptable behaviors and agreed upon norms.

    Most often, the Storming stage overlaps with the Norming stage. This overlap is due to the following:

    • It may be easier to agree on some matters (e.g. work processes, roles and responsibilities, team rules, communication agreement, goals, objectives, core values) than to implement such. To be successful with implementation, conflicts must be managed well
    • When new tasks are assigned to the team, some conflicts may appear again. If the conflict has been managed well in the past, these conflicts will be less intense and managed smoothly given the team building efforts that have strengthened relationships along with the growing understanding that team members have about one another

    Norms of behaviors for highly effective teams include:

    • Respect the points of view for each member (even if it differs from their own)
    • Challenge the idea rather than the person
    • Think positive and work towards the desired outcome
    • Speak openly and share information
    • Admit mistakes and consider these experiences a learning opportunity
    • Be constructive in giving and receiving feedback
    • Remain committed to your agreed upon roles and responsibilities and to the team’s purpose, mission, core values, goals and objectives

    Particularly important at the Norming stage is a principle common to the culture of high performing organizations – alignment. Alignment reflects the understanding that the “organization is a system of interrelated and interconnected work processes and that all activities need to aligned with the established direction” (Source: Organizational Excellence Framework, 2010). The leadership team establishes the strategic direction for the organization and reflects the direction in corporate statements (e.g. vision, mission, core values) and plans that have goals and objectives. Every effort should be made to cascade these statements and plans throughout the organizations so that all undertakings serve a common aim and resources are used wisely.

    Stage 4: Performing
    Teams that reach the Performing stage are mature – work processes, roles and responsibilities, team rules and the communication agreement have been well established and tested. The focus of the team at this stage is on managing performance, evaluating performance and achieving the team goals. Although conflicts may still arise, these conflicts continue to be managed well given the relationships that have been developed and strengthened over time and the norms of behaviors that have been established.

    At this stage, the Effort Grid (Figure 2) illustrates how the effort and talent of each team member will contribute to the strength of the overall team. To realize and maintain high team performance, it is recommended that team leaders:

    • Focus on members that demonstrate good talent and good effort (Golden Eagles). Related behavior includes listening, providing constructive feedback, assigning new tasks and challenges, inspiring, encouraging and so on. In other words, recognizing these members for the value they bring to the organization
    • Invest in training team members that demonstrate poor talent and good effort (Effort Eagles). Improve the talent of this group by training and coaching. Emphasize coaching as a better way to realize desired outcomes over coaxing (persuasion or intimidation) as coaching positively reinforces the team member’s effort to improve performance
    • Spend minimal time on team members with good talent and poor effort (Talent Traps) as motivation is difficult to train. Hopefully by witnessing the positive reinforcement available to those making a good effort, these team members will be encouraged to follow suit
    • Do not spend time on team members with poor talent and poor effort (Miracle Traps). Instead encourage these people to find employment elsewhere. Otherwise such team members will provide a drag on the organization and negatively influence other team members

    For the team leader, using the foregoing approach will clearly reinforce the talent and effort that are desired and required from team member and that will be rewarded.

    A practice common to high performing organizations is to share leadership with employees (Source: Practice 2.12, Organizational Excellence Framework, 2010). This practice helps team members learn about the leadership role (e.g. chair a meeting), enables them to have a new experience (e.g. lead an improvement initiative) and builds their commitment as they accept responsibility and accountability and feel a sense of ownership over the task at hand. This practice is beneficial for the organization too as it helps to develop the leadership skills of and showcases different leadership styles to team members.

    Stage 5: Adjourning
    In the Adjourning stage most of the team goals have been achieved and the focus at this stage is a gentle wrap-up. For the benefit of a learning organization, the Adjourning stage focuses on knowledge transfer for the current and future teams that will perform a similar function. Knowledge transfer should include documenting and sharing the:

    • Team’s purpose, mission, core values, long-term goals and short-term objectives
    • Work processes
    • Roles and responsibilities for the team members
    • Team rules
    • Communication agreement
    • Lessons Learnt
    • Surveys or studies reporting results or outcomes, including benchmarking of best practices

    Tuckman presented a powerful model that every team leader should be familiar with prior to leading a team. Leaders of highly effective teams should plan ahead and prepare for each stage of the Tuckman Team Model. In doing so, team leaders who understand the typical stages of team development will be agile and able to respond efficiently and effectively to most scenarios that arise during the life cycle of a team project. This preparation will help the team to perform well and to achieve its mission, goals and objectives at the desired level of quality, at a lower cost and within the set timeframe.

    About the Author:
    Dr. Omer Tigani is a quality management and organizational excellence consultant and expert with more than 18 years of experience blended with academic and professional qualifications in the field from Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Belgium and Switzerland.
    Utilizing various quality approaches (ISO standards, excellence models) and quality tools (six sigma), he has led organizations to design and establish robust management systems and to build organizational capabilities that enable the achievement of continually improving and sustainable performance.
    Dr. Omer has presented at conferences in the United States, Qatar and Sudan and has published peer-reviewed articles in international magazines with ASQ (Quality Progress, Journal for Quality and Participation). He is a licensed professional with Organizational Excellence Specialists and located in Canada.
    LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-omer-tigani-86125b1b/

  3. Dubai We Learn, 2019 – Dubai Heart Safe City

    August 30, 2019 by BPIR.com Limited

    By Dr. Almas Tazein, BPIR.com Limited, COER

    How many of us secretly pray for the patient whenever we hear the sirens of an emergency ambulance speedily going past us? I believe, all of us. Unfortunately, we all have either witnessed or heard of the heartbreaking stories of our beloved family, friends, acquaintances, or strangers experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest – at our homes, on the streets, our offices, at a social gathering, or while taking a stroll in the park. And we would never wish that they go unattended, without help or without any immediate damage control action taken by somebody who is nearby. And we dread relying on fate until the emergency paramedics arrive.

    This is what the ‘Dubai Heart Safe City’ initiative by the Dubai Health Authority is all about. Dubai Health Authority aims for a healthier and happier community by transforming Dubai into a Heart Safe City for its citizens, residents and visitors. Through this initiative, their strategic plan is aimed towards further saving more than 1500 lives by the year 2025.

    Dubai Health Authority has planned to channel its available health, technological and logistical resources while building new capabilities to target the Out-of-Hospital Sudden Cardiac Arrest (OHSCA) population within Dubai. As every second counts in cardiac arrest, the goal is to provide immediate, accessible and quality treatment by the bystanders and first responders before the patient is taken over by the ambulance paramedics and provided definitive treatment at the nearest Health Care facility.

    This colossal and altruistic initiative by the Dubai Health Authority is one of the 11 Dubai We Learn projects undertaken by the various Dubai Government entities under the change movement of the Dubai Government Excellence Program (DGEP), 2019.

    On Sunday 28 July 2019, the Dubai Heart Safe City progress-sharing meeting was held at Rashid Hospital, Dubai, UAE, and was attended by the officials and representatives from the Dubai Health Authority, and the Center for Organizational Excellence Research, New Zealand.

    The DHA and COER Teams at Rashid Hospital, Dubai Health Authority, Government of Dubai, UAE.

    If the accountability of governance intertwined with nobility could be measured in tangible terms, Dubai Health Authority’s Heart Safe City initiative for sure would win millions of hearts.

    STAKEHOLDER ENAGEGEMENT: The involvement and support of His Highness Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in the Dubai Heart Safe City (DHSC) Dubai We Learn 2019 project has been a major source of strength for DHA. Currently, DHA plans to actively involve all the stakeholders and sponsors for maximum participation and rigorous implementation.

    Earlier, a brainstorming session was held between the DHA and its stakeholders. With a futuristic approach, DHA plans to have regular meetings with its stakeholders to share their foresight with respect to its project. Currently, DHA is designing a comprehensive strategy and mutually agreed upon roadmap by the team members with a clear set of commitments and actions, to present to the stakeholders.

    Dr. Fahed Baslaib, Interventional Cardiologist and CEO of Rashid Hospital met The Executive Council, Government of Dubai, for their warranted support and engagement as the TEC‘s long-term involvement can surely strengthen the initiative to achieve superlative outcomes. He also would collaborate with the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) of Dubai to appreciate the contribution that they can make for this project in terms of delivery of AEDs to the crisis spot.

    CHALLENGES: One of the biggest challenges that DHA seeks to overcome is the reshuffling and repositioning of current processes and systems to align them with the Dubai Heart Safe City goals and objectives.

    COURSE OF ACTION: DHA is in the planning stage to conduct accredited programs and mass trainings for the general population in life-saving skills like performing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), and educating them about operating the cardiac emergency apparatus called Automated External Defibrillator (AED). Individuals who wish to volunteer when they are an eye witness to OHSCA, or have registered themselves as first responders to provide assistance during such overbearing times is the target population for the training. DHA has set up an interim goal of distributing 3000 AEDs by December 2020, strategically located in major areas, and 7000 by December 2025.

    DHA has also goal-posted the construction of a Data Registry for the official tracking of the OHSCA (Out-of-Hospital Sudden Cardiac Arrest) patients, AED trainings, and AED first responders (with their written consent) so that better research and development activities can be undertaken to increase the Survival Rate of Post-Cardiac Arrest from 5% to 20% by the year 2020. For the said purpose, DHA met with the Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services, and the Dubai Police to discuss the needed balanced approach for the same.

    To achieve this, through the ‘You can’t improve what you don’t count’ motto, DHA has started preparation for the OHCA registry by collaborating with the other Dubai government entities and private hospitals. By December 2019, DHA will announce the exact survival rate in Dubai.

    In unison with the project objectives, DHA is keen on creating awareness in the general population about OHSCA through social media campaigns and television outreach. DHA also wishes to restructure the interaction networks and team frameworks used within and outside the teams for unambiguous project communication.


    Fig: The main steps to follow when a heart attack occurs.

    BENCHMARKING: DHA has approached the American Heart Association and Philips for a benchmarking proposal to combat the out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest crisis management in Dubai. DHA has followed the Seattle, and Copenhagen models of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest management experience, and the DHA team plans to visit either of the two cities before January 2020 for best practice learning and potential partnerships.

    HEALTH & STATUTORY REGULATIONS: Health Care delivery and regulatory compliance are invariably inclusive of each other. Keeping in line with DHA’s legacy of ensuring the highest standards of quality for its Dubai population, health regulation and integration of the same into the Dubai Heart Safe City project was stressed upon during the meeting. It was also mentioned that once the health regulation standards for OHSCA are in place, the DHA would approach the private sector for their involvement and participation because Cardiac Arrest patients are placed in both the public and private sector hospitals. Criteria and guidelines for OHCA have been developed to share with all the hospitals, bystanders, and population of Dubai for infusing awareness, and to alleviate the fears and resistance that inhibit people from helping and assisting others with preliminary cardiac care in public situations.

    The location specifications for the placement of the AEDs, and standards available (if any) for the infrastructure of buildings relevant to the same will also be explored, keeping the maintenance of the same in perspective.

    PROJECT PERFORMANCE METRICS: Dr. Robin Mann, Director, COER, emphasized the elements of monitoring the performance curve of the initiative:

    • it is important to have leading and lagging KPI measures specific to the project. (12 KPIs have now been added in the Terms of Reference (TOR) phase of the TRADE methodology).
    • to have clear data on the proportion of patients treated because of the initiative, and what were their survival rates (DHA will start a Registry in 2 hospitals in Dubai; before the end of September 2019, it will then be implemented in all hospitals in Dubai).
    • scenario planning – lay down the roles and responsibilities of each team member with clarity on the 6 months and 1-year timelines for the next two years for the fulfillment of the vision. (DHA will be meeting all stakeholders to discuss their roles and responsibilities (R&R) and have these finalized by the middle of October 2019).

    FUTURE STRATEGY: The Dubai Heart Safe City also hopes to present itself at the Dubai Expo 2020 and share its best practices and experiential learning with the rest of the world.
    To sum it up, DHA has meticulously laid out a three-phase implementation plan spanning 2019-2025:

    2019: PHASE # 1
    1. Select program/s to implement
    2. Formulate a team
    3. Determine how to make it happen in your community
    4. Set specific goals
    5. Achieve buy-in from agency personnel
    6. Establish performance standards
    7. Consider a pilot program (DUBAI EXPO 2020)
    8. Communicate progress with all stakeholders
    9. Communicate with the public (to start awareness programmes)
    10. Support, Advocate, Celebrate

    2020: PHASE # 2
    1. Establish a Cardiac Registry ‘You can’t improve what you don’t count’
    2. Begin Telephone CPR
    3. Begin High Performance CPR
    4. Begin Rapid Dispatch
    5. Measure Professional Resuscitation
    6. Begin an AED Program for First Responders
    7. Use Smart Technology to Extend CPR and AED
    8. Make CPR and AED Training Mandatory
    9. Work Towards Accountability
    10. Work Towards a Culture of Excellence
    1. 50,000 trained individuals
    2. Augment the AEDs available in the community with 3000 deployed devices
    3. Build a network of 50 connected Advanced Ambulances and 10 connected Definitive Care Facilities
    4. Transfer the patient to a definitive care facility with appropriate intervention available

    1. Continuation of PHASE 2
    2. Total trained to be more than 100,000 individuals
    3. Total of 10,000 AEDs to be deployed within the Dubai geographical area.

    In April 2018, Dubai Health Authority broke the Guinness World Record for most nationalities in a CPR relay. If this alone seems overwhelming to achieve, in April 2018, DHA’s previous Dubai We Learn project was awarded with 7 Stars – Prevention Better Than Cure: Innovation Prevention Program to Combat Diabetes. Moving forward to today, DHA Team’s passion and devotion to help the community with healthcare measures that are relevant and desirable is palpable. The influx of many more sensational ideas by the team members, and the conceptualization of the execution plan seems like dormant dynamite waiting to explode. Sure, it will. Only to spread health and happiness, like they have envisioned in their Dubai Heart Safe City project manifesto.

    For more information on Dubai We Learn contact:

    Dr. Zeyad Mohammad El Kahlout, Senior Quality and Excellence Advisor, Dubai Government Excellence Program (DGEP). Email: Zeyad.ElKahlout@tec.gov.ae


  4. The Key to Maximizing Productivity When Working from Home May Be All in Your Space

    by BPIR.com Limited

    Article contributed by Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza

    As of 2016, nearly half of American workers reported that they spent at least some time working from home, and by 2017, 5.2% (roughly eight million) worked from home full-time, a number that continues to increase.

    Affording workers the flexibility to do their jobs outside of the traditional office setting has been linked to employee productivity and retention, and Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace Report found that flexible scheduling and remote-working opportunities are increasingly playing a role in workers’ choice of employer. The ability to work from home and create schedules around personal responsibility has also been identified as a way to help close the gender pay gap and prevent women and primary caregivers from incurring the motherhood penalty, and this practice also makes it possible for employees to take care of aging family members.

    We asked three business and management experts how this growing segment of workers can maximize productivity when working from home, and the answer was unanimous: you must create the space.

    Reserve and preserve a mental space
    The duties of domestic life will always call, and it’s difficult to ignore this when a sink full of dishes is staring you in the face or a child is knocking on your office door. Allowing household demands to creep into your mental space during your working day creates an attention rift.

    “Not having a proper workspace at home can seriously affect your productivity, and constantly being distracted by personal issues can undermine your ability to focus on your work,” says attention management expert Maura Thomas. For those without children in the home, this may be easily accomplished by establishing daily routine, dressing for work, making a physical space only for work, and drawing a line in time between work and personal obligations.

    Jamie Gruman, professor and senior research fellow at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, recommends creating this mental space by keeping two separate calendars: “one for work and one for non-work activities. This way you won’t be distracted by items like ‘get ingredient for chicken soup’ while scanning your agenda for the next item on your work to-do list.”

    For those who work from home to care for children, creating a mental space for productivity requires additional effort. While those with school-aged kids can make the most of school hours, those will younger children will have to weigh the cost of paying for childcare or tag-teaming with a partner or family member as a means of creating this mental (and physical) space. Even if childcare is not available to you, this mental space can be created, with creativity: maximize productivity during nap times or after children go to bed or, for those with children of a more autonomous age, by creating for them a movie hour (or two).

    Reserve and preserve a physical space
    The ability to devote attention to work at home is also dependent on physical space. Thomas argues that the most important question to ask about the home office is, is it really a workspace?

    “Do you have an appropriate amount of space for the tools of your work, such as ample room to comfortably hold your computer and peripherals, some space to write and do work that isn’t computer-based, plus storage space for other tools and accessories, like pens, stapler, paper clips, phone, calculator, reference material, unopened mail, glass of water, outlets, and USB ports, etc.? If you routinely “work” squeezed into a corner of your couch, the end of the dining room table, or squeezed onto some flat surface in a corner of your bedroom, then you are seriously impacting your productivity.”

    “We asked three business and management experts how this growing segment of workers can maximize productivity when working from home, and the answer was unanimous: you must create the space.”

    Thomas points out that many of today’s workers are “knowledge workers” (this is increasingly true of the work-from-home segment), which means that the tools for productivity are information and communication.

    “If you have to stop what you’re working on because you can’t find what you need quickly, you will have interrupted your flow. Even simple things, like not being able to find a pencil when you need one, can cause enough of a distraction to have an impact on your productivity.”

    Having a room in your home reserved only for work is ideal, but for workers with little space to spare, this can present an obstacle. “Someday I would love to have a designated office, but since I live in a small apartment, my desk lives in the main living area,” Seattle-based blogger Chelsea Lankford told House Method in an interview last year. “However, I only let myself sit at my desk when I’m working. I do get a little stir-crazy at times, but that’s when I pick up my work and head to a cafe or walk down the street to Lake Union when I need a break.”

    Business consultant and contributor to Entrepreneur Phil La Duke says that the I don’t have enough room argument doesn’t really work—you make room. “When I first started working from home, I was renting a small duplex. I put my desk in my bedroom and literally made a cube out of a room divider. My office took up very little space and the room divider made it seem more like an office from the inside, but didn’t look like an office from the outside.”

    Stick to a schedule
    Much like reserving a physical space, those who work from home should reserve a space in time for their work. Marking regular work hours (even if those are not the traditional nine to five), practicing time blocking, mastering to-do lists and scheduling, and breaking for lunch create the temporal space for productivity in the home office.

    Thomas advises: “Try to be realistic—you’re not going to complete your work and then do 10 other personal tasks on the same day. Also, tame your task list. Do you have to check two different email accounts, the Post-It notes on your computer, your calendar, and your voicemail to figure out what you need to do? Get your to-dos all in one place. Your brain doesn’t know what to do with ill-defined tasks until you turn them into smaller, actionable steps that are very specific. Use verbs when entering items on your task list so you’ll know exactly what you have to do to take appropriate action.”

    The obstacle of isolation
    Despite the number of Americans who are moving their workplace into the home, and the benefits around productivity and career advancement it affords, this is a relatively new business practice. Last year Huffington Post reported that there may still be psychological ramifications for some who opt for this arrangement: the pressure to “appear” busy at all times, to make oneself available for more hours outside of the workday (if not all the time), and even a sense of guilt over the ability to work from home, especially if colleagues do not do the same.

    Understanding that these pressures may be self-imposed and mastering productivity at home may make it easier to take ownership of the arrangement.

    Remember that your boss has their own job to do, so it’s unlikely that they will spend their working hours tracking your movements, so if they’ve afforded you this flexibility, they should deliver without penalty. And while I can’t solve for the reality of the motherhood penalty here, I will make the argument that feeling in control of your productivity at home leads to confidence in work product, which may help mitigate the emotional labor of caretakers who work from home.

    Additionally, “I would tell people who feel pressure to look busy that they are probably far more productive than when they are in an office with coworkers and they need make time for coffee breaks, meals, etc.,” La Duke argues. The pressure [to be available at all times] can be enormous, but it is largely self-imposed,” says La Duke of his own work-from-home arrangement, but encourages workers to examine exactly where that pressure is coming from.

    More tips for maximizing productivity when working from home

    Use your office only for work
    La Duke recommends keeping work spaces work spaces to establish that mental distance. “Your home office is your workplace that just so happens to be located in your home. Don’t blur the lines by making it a place where you pay bills, watch sports, or do anything but work.”

    Establish a dress code
    “Follow the same dress code as you would if you were going into an office. Not only does this put you in work mode, but when you change clothes when you get off work, you get the transition you between work and home that your commute would normally provide,” La Duke says.

    Don’t neglect ergonomics
    When creating your physical space, make it one where you can comfortably and sustainably spend a full work day. Don’t skimp on the right desk chair, and if you use a standing desk, get a mat to protect your back and legs.

    Block out noise
    There have been studies that show certain types of ambient noise can boost creativity. Free tools like Noisli and Coffitivity are great for creating your own mix of white noise, or for blocking out a noisy household.

  5. The “New” Purpose of a Corporation

    by BPIR.com Limited

    Article originally posted on Blogrige by Robert Fangmeyer

    In case you missed it, on August 19, 2019, the Business Roundtable released a statement on the purpose of a corporation. This statement is probably overdue by at least a decade or two; however, it is still worthy of appreciation, as it acknowledges what many good corporations already practice and recognizes the importance of creating value for all key stakeholders, rather than focusing just on quarterly financial returns and stockholder earnings. The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and many others published articles about the change.

    If you, your leadership, and/or your board of directors would like a proven, nonprescriptive tool to help you implement such an “enlightened” approach to leading, managing, and improving your organization, you are in luck!

    The Baldrige Excellence Framework is Exactly What You Need!
    Baldrige has been promoting and enabling such a perspective for many years. In fact, more than a dozen of the organizations whose CEO’s signed the statement have used the Baldrige framework, and each of the fundamental commitments included in the statement (on the left below) reflects a core value imbedded within the Baldrige Excellence Framework (on the right bolded):

    • Delivering value to our customers: Customer-Focused Excellence
    • Investing in our employees: Valuing People
    • Dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers: Ethics and Transparency
    • Supporting the communities in which we work: Societal Contributions
    • Generating long-term value for shareholders: Focus on Success

    Best of all, Baldrige isn’t intended to be something you do in addition to what you do. Rather, it is about improving how you do what you do, to ensure that those actions and practices are effective at accomplishing their intended purpose while also supporting and enabling optimal performance across the entire organization.

    Learn More From Baldrige Award Recipient Leaders
    To see and learn from role-model organizations that truly want to help your organization improve, check out the Baldrige Award recipients. I encourage you to attend the Baldrige Fall Conference, our annual Quest for Excellence® conference next spring , or other opportunities throughout the year where you can engage with and learn from a variety of different organizations and their leaders.