2 Spreadsheets to Manage Work in the People Cloud

One of my colleagues issued a great real-world challenge after my recent What is Work? post. In that post I offered that "If the idea of a job or position is dropped, we then are both more free and more obligated to find matches for our own talent and motivations." …and that one strategy is to think about knowledge, skills, abilities, and motivations (the talent you bring to the service of your work), and then match it to you opportunities…. "It may be difficult at this stage of evolution for many people to see how their service fits in, because we don't yet have the needed transparency [around the opportunities]." Ted responded to that post with:

I am facing this challenge now as I start in earnest rebuilding my tech team and I am hearing from them that I need to bring it down to more concrete terms and relate my words to their jobs. Aka - I need to create a pretty well defined road map.

My roadmap is actually a couple of spreadsheets

The first is a personal one. It has our different knowledge, skills, abilities, and motivations down the left and opportunities across the top. Take a look at your LinkedIn profile. Don't focus on position or job titles, but rather the "Skills & Expertise" section lower down on the page (at least that where it falls on mine).

As we take on more responsibility for our own workflow, we can start to document our talent and see where it fits into the opportunities available to us. The cells of the spreadsheet hold some indication of how our particular talents were or would be valued in that opportunity. If our talent isn't being used to its full capacity or given its full value, maybe it's time to look for new opportunities. Once you have some documentation (consistent with ideas of lean entrepreneurship - a huge value in this new world), you can begin to make evidence-based decisions about the work you do and the knowledge, skill, and abilities you develop.

Highlight that last: "...knowledge, skills, and abilities you develop." We can never stop learning. The work isn't ours unless we can do it, and the work keeps changing.

Smartsheet project management templateAs the work opportunities become more visible, there is greater opportunity to effectively match our talents. That brings us to the second spreadsheet. This spreadsheet looks a lot like a project management template offered by Smartsheet. The one change I'd make is that instead of "Assigned To," I'd have "Accepted By" (double win there -- builds on what we know about motivation and goal setting).

The spreadsheet has to be shared across the people with the talent and the people who need the work done. The reason I chose the Smartsheet example is because their tool (which integrates with both Google Docs and Microsoft Office) is focused on sharing. Google's Spreadsheet and Excel can also be shared, but I think Smartsheet gives you great control over what gets shared (and integrates with those mainstream tools).

Before you laugh, the app supported mobile community, Coffee & Power, was designed and built this way (I've mentioned them in an earlier post and am looking forward to an interview with their founder, Philip Rosedale). At a recent conference on crowd sourcing, Rosedale described how they initially arranged for work and pay via a public spreadsheet where people would sign up for tasks that needed to be done in one column, their progress in another, and what they needed to be paid in a third (slide 4). Though their tools have gone beyond a spreadsheet (they use Elance, oDesk, and others), transparency and matching are still at the heart of how they do the work behind this app.

The people with the work to be done have to do their homework too

Again drawing on the classics, the best parts of Management by Objectives can underscore why the homework of specifically identifying the work you need to have done is so valuable. It isn't management by control or micromanagement, but rather an pointer to where you think need to go and then freedom to let others help you get there in the best way. Part of the identified work to share with others may be setting these objectives. Nilofer Merchant's book, The New How: Creating Business Solutions Through Collaborative Strategy outlines the reasons.

Let me practice what I'm preaching. Lead by Letting Go (a project I'm working on) is all about how to share these critical management decisions in ways that get the work done. I'm not saying to just throw a bunch of tasks in the air and see how it lands, but rather I am trying to clarify how to use human, technical, and organization dimensions to build work in a way that can compete in our current environment. If you think there are better objectives, or have building blocks to contribute, please let us all know.

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