Priorities as Hot Potatoes

I was recently thinking about how our report production process resembles the childhood game of Hot Potato. That’s the game where a group of children passes a hot potato, or some other object, with music playing. When the music stops, someone is left holding the hot potato. Kind of like musical chairs, without walking around a bunch of chairs. In any event, when we are preparing reports, various components come together at different times, when they are completed by different team members. As soon as the pieces of the report are prepared and finalized by one person, they get handed to someone else to take the appropriate next steps. For example, a research associate makes charts of the survey responses. These charts are passed to another research associate to proof and verify before passing them along to the consultant to review as part of the report. The charts, then, are the hot potato. The same is true with drafts of the report. The idea in my mind is that one should do one’s work on that portion of the report, and pass it along as soon as possible so as not to have it sitting around when it could be in the hands of the next person. Inevitably, day to day work is ongoing during the report process and yet, the report, or any client work, should take priority over opening the mail, for example. Therefore, I try to get all staff to realize the report components, such as charts, videos, etc., are the hot potatoes. If one lets them sit, they cause delays to other team members, thereby delaying it for the client. One is burned by the hot potato when he/she is found to be doing work that could be shifted to ensure that no one is kept waiting for their turn to hold the potato. Pass it quickly to avoid the burn!

I must admit that I enjoy playing “hot potato” as it relates to the process of preparing a report on behalf of a client far more than I enjoyed playing the game as a child (for that matter, the game of musical chairs was not for me, either). The concept of hot potato or passing the baton is difficult for some of the Magnus team members to understand when they are hired. This is because, based on my experience, many people prefer to work on one task until it is completed prior to starting to work on a different task. For example, if an employee is busy taking inventory of supplies prior to ordering them, it is difficult, at first, for him/her to understand to drop this minor task the minute the report lands on his/her desk (either electronically or on paper). However, David and I strive to train our staff that, when there is any work to be performed on behalf of a client, that work takes precedence over all other work, particularly mundane tasks such as ordering office supplies. The other factor of importance for all Magnus staff is never, ever, require me to wait for them to complete a task, particularly a time sensitive, client related task because they are “too busy” working on something else. As long as our employees realize that all clients’ work is more important than anything else and further, performing work I have requested them to perform is key to their longevity at Magnus, the hot potato analogy usually sinks in. We must be doing something right. We’ve been passing the hot potato for 25 years so far and have never missed a deadline for any of our clients. Teamwork, following policies and procedures, and concern for our clients’ best interests is what we refer to as “The Magnus Way.”

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