By: Julie Williams-Muz, CPA, CFO, MSBO Board Member, Finance Director, Huron ISD
Happy New Year! It’s amazing that three words can produce a motivational feeling within us to create goals for the new year. We find ourselves celebrating our past accomplishments and letting go of our past challenges. It’s simple, yet so powerful!
Each fiscal year my team embraces this same process. We reflect upon our past accomplishments and we celebrate them. We talk about our past challenges and how we overcame them. It’s important to remind ourselves of how much good we do each year. It helps us get motivated for our future endeavors.
Every year each team member chooses a focus word that will drive them through the year. We share our words and the rationale behind our choices. We post them around our office as a constant reminder of our focus. This simple process has driven many new successes among our team members. I challenge you to try this. The idea came from Jon Gordon. You can watch this four minute video by clicking this link One Word.
My word for 2019-20 is Simplify. This word has guided me to reflect upon the work my team and I do and find ways to simplify tasks. With that said, in order to simplify, often times you must put in an exorbitant amount of time up front developing a process or structure that will in the long run simplify your work. Within that statement lies the challenge. We often create many excuses such as, I don’t have time for that, or it is too overwhelming.
Several years ago I found a way to move past those excuses. I realized that we needed to prioritize some of those back burner projects no matter how daunting they appeared. In order to continuously improve, we must tackle the difficulties even if we can’t tackle them all at once. I began creating annual themes.
Each year I choose an area of needed improvement, explain the purpose with passion, and create a fun theme around it to get my team on board. For our current year we are tackling our data management issue. We have not taken time over the years to dispose of records which has created a storage issue. We created an acronym “data CROC”. Data Cleansing, Data Retention, Data Organization, Data Collaboration. To add some fun we created a team mascot which is a cartoon crocodile shredding paper with its teeth. We created an action plan that involved scheduling days as a team to work in our dirty, cold shed. It doesn’t sound like fun, but we made it fun! We created Data CROC shirts, enjoyed hot cider and donuts in November, and in December, had hot chocolate and cookies while we worked. As a team we met this challenge and celebrated our win! So far we disposed of more than 100 banker boxes of records. We signed a contract with a new vendor to help us manage our records electronically. We are working extra hard now, but going forward on an annual basis we will simply dispose of the boxes labeled for that year, replace them with our new boxes (which should be reduced due to our new electronic data software).
Creating annual focus areas allows you to tackle those daunting backburner tasks, and before you know it, a few years later you are reviewing all of the wonderful things you have accomplished. I am excited to begin planning our 2020-21 annual theme!
It really is that simple, decide on a focus area, create an action plan, add some fun, get your team on board, work hard, and celebrate your win!
I will leave you with this quote, “It’s impossible,” said pride. “It’s risky,” said experience. “It’s pointless,” said reason. “Give it a try,” whispered the heart.