Getting Order Right

It seems so simple to consider 'order' - the sequence of activities to get something done. For something like a recipe, you would not consider getting the order of things you do wrong.

Add teams into the process and distribute them across the globe and you are all set for the 'order' of activities to be a nebulous concept to nail down.

In something like an IT cutover, disaster recovery plan or incident management resolution, order is critical. However, if teams see a list of things to be done they often optimise to do the simple things or the things they are best at first, and to do things based on the best availability of people. These behaviours often drive your order-critical teamwork to result in train crashes.

For example, I can recall a cutover where activities were done out of sequence. A team had some time earlier in the day and did a set of things then instead of in the correct order. The result was that cash was taken from customers' bank accounts by accident. Despite fast resolutions, it hit the press and did reputational damage.

To optimise teams to follow a defined 'order' you need a few things:

1. A simple plan that everyone understands

People need to understand the planned order of activities and find it simple to understand and follow them. Simplicity is not a 1500 line Gantt chart.

2. Practice

To improve understanding and get context for the activities and the importance of their order, people need to see how all the activities fit together. This is best done by dry-running the sequence of activities.

3. Notification

When running the plan there has to be execution support to tell people when to start and let people know when activities are complete. Notification has to be active in nudging people, rather than expecting them to get passive status from viewing the plan a lot. Without this coordination, there is no sense of order.