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Transitioning from personal GTD to company GTD

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  • Transitioning from personal GTD to company GTD

    I have been using GTD on a personal level for the last 4-5 years. I've loved it, sometimes used it more than others, adapted the system a little to my own requirements, but overall it has been a fantastic system which has served me well.

    A few months ago I joined a new company. On of my briefs was to 'make the company more efficient'. I had several other projects as well as that one, so I concentrated on achieving results in those other areas whilst learning how the company currently functions, so that I can provide input and restructuring productively, rather than making change for the sake of it.

    Now I'm starting to really focus on the efficiencies side so have started to bring my GTD habits to the workplace. My chairman stopped off at my desk the other day and I produced a list of things that I needed to speak with her about. She asked me about it and I showed her the GTD book and told her I thought that it was great. The next day she told me she'd ordered a copy, the day after she told me she was reading it avidly and it'd already started to help, the day after that she told me that she'd bought a copy for the two people that work most closely for her, and last week I was asked to give an overview of the book and how I used it to those people.

    What's great is that it has gained a lot of momentum quickly. In fact, much more quickly than I'd planned. But now it's happening I intend to strike while the iron is hot and make the most of it, so it is now the most important thing I have to do.

    So now I am looking at ways of implementing it with my company, but as I've used it very much as a personal paper based system previously, I am running into a few challenges and would welcome input from others who might have faced similar things in the past.

    1) We use a pretty outdated CRM / enterprise system within our company and we have a policy of using that for 'ToDo's (tasks), and logging all client / supplier correspondence. Eventually this will be replaced but that won't happen for at least 1-2 years so I'd like to implement a GTD based system whilst still using this.

    There are obviously benefits of using a shared electronic system, including:
    - keeping a record of all correspondence which is backed up
    - allowing all ToDos / diary appointments / other info to be shareable across the company

    It would be a pain (as the system is so outdated) but it would be possible to adapt the system to implement a context based set of lists for everyone to be able to use, which would benefit from maintaining everything electronically. However I am then very concerned that the full benefits of GTD wouldn't be realised and therefore it may fall flat, including:
    - the portability - if everyone only has their GTD system when they're sitting in front of their computer, what happens when they aren't (my personal system is based on a 12 slot folder in which I keep all of my lists under different categories and it works brilliantly - partly because it is always with me)
    - the focus of having hand written lists that David Allen talks about - that if a list is on a computer then it is easier to let items sit there for days until they don't even get noticed

    Any advice is gratefully received.

  • #2
    I've not tried implementing GTD in an environment beyond 2 people (ie, my wife and I), so am not speaking from experience. That said, a few thoughts come to mind:
    - Keep in mind that GTD is intended to encapture whole-of-life, not just one's work context or work-related areas of focus. My suspicion is that if you try and implement company-to-person, it would be very hard to implement effectively. I think much better to aim to have each person at the company over time adopt GTD themselves
    - I'd suggest that you try and take the same approach that is typically discussed - ie, start simple, and let it build naturally from there
    - I think the most effective way to get widespread adoption would be to aim for a viral approach. That is - staff who aren't on GTD will begin to see others using it, hear the GTD terms being used, and want to get on board themselves
    - On the back of the above - I'd suggest you work closely with the chairman, the others she is working closely with, and a few more people who you think will jump on board - and get a strong team of users who will be advocates of the GTD system. This would primarily be you spending time with that core group to train them, help them not make mistakes that you presumably made as you were first implementing, etc
    - Start an informal weekly or biweekly discussion group where GTD adoptees come and share their wins and their struggles with GTD
    - Get permission for anyone who wants a copy of the book to get one from you/HR, etc for free. The reason for this - if someone isn't enthusiastic about implementing GTD in their life, there is no way they will succeed
    - Once your advocates are going well on their personal implementation, move onto more formal training offerings - this would be first-come-first-served, again to create an air of desirability and scarcity about adopting GTD, which will encourage more people to want to do it

    I'd suggest you don't have a 'hard and fast' approach to what tools people use - some will like paper, some electronic. The main thing is for you to be an expert on the pros and cons of the various options. Individual style and personality will be primary influencers for what is best.

    What an awesome opportunity you have! Good luck with it


    • #3
      Thanks for the reply - much appreciated.

      I totally agree that it should be adopted by people as they are ready, and that using it and advocating it amongst willing participants is the best way to do it.

      However working as part of a business there does need to be a consistency within certain elements of the company - for example communications with clients do all need to be stored in the same place otherwise things might get lost, and if people have certain actions assigned to them, but they call in sick or have an accident then it is important to be able to see what needs doing from a company viewpoint, as opposed to relying on their paper notes that may have been taken home with them.

      I'm would really value some input from someone that has gone through a similar process to benefit from any lessons learnt and thinking that has already been done.



      • #4
        I think it might be worth thinking through thoroughly what the different processes in the company are, and where you expect GTD to help. I am very interested in both GTD and Lean, and tend to see them as two complementing strategies to achieve efficiency.

        For any process that can be standardized, I would take a Lean approach, and for any process that can't (which for some of us is more or less all the work that we do) I use a GTD approach. Another distinction that I think is necessary is that GTD is a personal tool, while Lean is a process based approach.

        While I would highly recommend helping anyone interested in adopting GTD, I think that on a company level, especially if standardized processes are in place or can be put in place, implementing Lean would be more beneficial in improving effiency, and this even more so, since two things you mention in your posts are consistency and replaceability.


        • #5
          Thanks for the reply - again much appreciated. I will make a point of looking into Lean as I don't know huge amounts about it.

          But I'm really keen on GTD and the benefits that intrinsically brings to me as in individual, so as ensuring that no actions fall through the cracks, helping people lead a stress free work life as they know that all of the things they need to do are 'in the system', working with a system that taps into people's intuitive sense of prioritisation and so forth.

          Part of me is beginning to think that GTD is actually only really effective for individuals as I'm really struggling to find any evidence of successful usage with multiple people within a company. I'm dearly hoping to be proved wrong and I'm sure that it must be possible, although as I say, I have come across hurdles and immediate answers don't present themselves and I'm hoping to compare notes with people who have worked through these already.

          Please somebody prove me wrong!


          • #6
            how about asking the david allen company?

            after all, if there is one company that should have experience in bringing the GTD-principles from a personal to a company level, it must be them...


            • #7
              Originally posted by PaulD View Post
              Part of me is beginning to think that GTD is actually only really effective for individuals as I'm really struggling to find any evidence of successful usage with multiple people within a company. I'm dearly hoping to be proved wrong and I'm sure that it must be possible, although as I say, I have come across hurdles and immediate answers don't present themselves and I'm hoping to compare notes with people who have worked through these already.
              Hi PaulD

              Not our style to "prove you wrong" but I'm happy to share that yes, GTD is extremely effective throughout many companies, across the world. Many of our clients have made GTD part of a global initiative. We have loads of stories about this where the individuals have optimized their productivity, as well as the organization as a whole. One of my favorite examples of this is the company General Mills. If you try the GTD Connect free trial, you can listen to David's interview with Kevin Wilde, their Chief Learning Officer. Fantastic example of both individual and organizational implementation.



              • #8
                Hi Kelly,

                Thanks for the response - I have listened to all of the recordings with Kevin Wilde. It was very interesting from the point of view of his describing how his personal filing system works, his weekly review - some definite things to learn from that.

                However, unless I missed anything, he talked about a system which sounded very much like a personal system that he uses at work, as opposed to a company system that he is a part of. This is very valid, but it isn't what I'm looking for. My real interest is in finding examples or precedent of companies that have implemented a system whereby people can get the benefits of using GTD on a personal level (keeping the solution instantly accessible and portable at all times, probably on paper), but don't lose the benefits that I have already described of shared, secure company information (i.e. on computer, not paper) - and most importantly how the two integrate. I am still struggling to see how this would work. My system is currently 100% paper based and I love it - but I struggle to see how it can work in it's current incarnation within my company. Most people in my company are 100% computer based, and I'd like very much to bring the benefits of GTD to willing recipients, but can't quite see how it'd work.

                Any further pointers?

                Many thanks for your input.



                • #9
                  Hi Paul,

                  Comes back to GTD being really about a methodology, not tools. Our seminars are still very tool agnostic. We often lead Guided Setups for Outlook and Lotus Notes, but that's only after they've gone through a class teaching them the fundamentals so they understand why we are setting up those tools that way.

                  So sharing GTD with others can simply mean sharing the best practices and models.
                  • Capture anything and everything that has your attention and concern
                  • Define actionable things into concrete next steps and successful outcomes
                  • Organize information in the most streamlined way, in appropriate categories, based on how and when you need to access it
                  • Keep current and “ahead of the game” with appropriately frequent reviews
                  • Keep track of the bigger picture while managing the small details
                  • Make trusted choices about what to do in any given moment

                  Most people will get how they can easily replicate that in their electronic tool if you show them how you manage it on paper.

                  Something like this is a very cool way to share it with others. People can get the concepts, without getting tangled in the tools.

                  Does that help?


                  • #10
                    If you are going to be replacing your CRM in a few years then this might be the big opportunity to overhaul and get GTD systems in place. But learning the GTD principles takes a couple of years anyway, so if you focus on the culture/habit changes now, and then when you bring in the software change later people will find the change easier.

                    Simple things, like identifying next actions at the end of the meeting, and getting everyone to write emails where they are explicit with what they would like the reader to do, could be really beneficial.