Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

First published November 5, 2010

Tooling up and tooling down 

Manufacturing organizations are well aware of the importance of getting the tooling up / tooling down process right.If you want an effective and efficient production run, it’s crucial to optimize the amount of time and other resources spent in setting up the machines and retooling / decommissioning them at the end.

In service organizations, and for every knowledge worker, exactly the same principle applies – it kicks into effect every Monday and Friday (the principle comes in to play at other times too, like starting a new project, but it’s most common and frequent as we start and end our weeks).

What tools, techniques or processes do you use to help your knowledge-worker team (and yourself) effectively and efficiently ‘tool up’ each Monday and ‘tool down’ on Friday? Or do you just wait for the water-cooler phase to give way to the engaged-with-work phase?

Here are a few suggestions. Do just one, or two of these – not all – rotate them and find those that work naturally for you (one hint: ‘meetings’ are a highly ineffective way to tool up at the start of a week):

On Mondays

1. 15 minutes into the day, send your team a short email summarizing the top three goals for the week ahead;

2. Ask for a 3-line email back from each team member listing their three goals for the week;

3. Set up a rotating, random pairing of your team members each Monday morning and have them talk with each other for 10 minutes (face to face, skype, email, text are all good) and share their goals for the incoming week;

4. Get your team on the phone for an agreed and strictly enforced 7 minutes. Share one thing that you think important – a reminder, an encouragement, a success story, and take and answer just one question (remember, this is a tool-up process, not your weekly project review);

On Fridays

5. Do whichever of 1-3 above that you like, but in retrospect (review achievements, rather than goals);

6. Have an agreed and strictly enforced 17-minute meeting (tooling down can be a little more relaxed than tooling up) and have three team members each share one story from the week – a learning, an encouragement, a failure, an a-ha. You get to ask one question of your team;

7. Ask an internal or external customer for one example of something your team did particularly well (or badly). Send a team email and ask for a 1-para short comment.

8. Get your team in one team member’s office, or on the phone, for (again) an agreed and strictly enforced 17-minute meeting. Have a one minute intro, then the chosen team member gets to ask his colleagues anything at all – for help on a project, advice with a problem, a better understanding of what they do, whatever.

Then for eight minutes the other team members get to ask him or her anything they want – how / why they’re doing something, what their goals are, how they would approach something – again, whatever.

You can undoubtedly think of your own tooling up / tooling down techniques. Care to share?

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