Have you ever spent unnecessary time on a request, all because you & your colleagues weren’t on the same page? *raises hand*
It’s not a great feeling! But that’s what happens when you don’t organize those requests early on. If you write content for your org, create reports, build lists, or do anything that requires even the slightest bit of niche expertise….let’s chat.
With staff requests, it’s fine to keep this casual at first. Maybe someone sends you an email, or catches you on the way to the kitchen, or calls/Slack/messenger-pigeons you what they need. And for a while, that works.
But as your org grows, so do those asks. And pretty soon, that system you thought you had becomes this:
That’s why we’re putting a process in place. We already considered the types of requests we get and the major perspectives involved. We also built a framework that outlines everything that needs to happen before a request is completed.
Now it’s time to turn our attention the beginning – when our colleagues first ask for the “thing.”
Your intake system is key to a productive process.
When we talk about juggling things effectively, our intake process is part of the puzzle! Without one, we risk:
- not getting all the info we need the first time around,
- getting the wrong info the first time around but not knowing it, OR…
- getting the right info, but it becomes the wrong info when someone forgets a detail.
This wastes everyone’s time, because we either go back and forth with our colleagues, or we end up producing work that doesn’t quite fit the bill.
So, no more wasted time and bad outputs. Let’s get that intake process in order!
Start by figuring out what you need to work on a request.
Your requestors aren’t the only ones with requirements! As the person doing the work, you get to decide what you need from others, too.
Some of those details will depend on the ask. But at minimum, you’ll definitely need to know:
- when your colleague needs to have this ready
- how they’ll use it
- any wonky or super specific criteria (to avoid redo’s)
Keep adding to the list. In the example from our last post, I created a framework for email list requests. In my case, I’d need a few more things: like the criteria for the recipients, or any special exclusions (for example, we wouldn’t want to send a fundraising email to current donors)!
Obviously your list will depend on the ‘thing’ that you’re providing to your staff. That complexity will also help to determine which of the methods below works best.
Then, set the terms for how peeps contact you.
This is going to depend on a few factors: how complex this thing is that you’re producing, how often you’re asked for it, the size of your staff, and your own personal preferences.
And while some of this may feel obvious, it’s important to dissect still. We don’t want to default to a system just because it’s the way things are done now. We’re trying to be strategic here!
So consider which of these 4 options is best for organizing & collecting those requirements from your staff.
1. Collect requirements verbally.
Sure, conversations & meetings don’t exactly scream ‘formal process’. But it’s one of the more common ways we get input from our colleagues, and for that reason , it makes the list!
That’s isn’t to say a verbal process is always wrong. You should still supplement it with some sort of record – like a recap email or audio recording – so that those conversations aren’t lost when someone inevitably asks you about it in the next 6-24 months.
2. Collect requirements over email.
Don’t fix what isn’t broken: if written requests in your inbox work , so be it! You don’t need fancy tech to get stuff done (and you can always formalize this by forwarding an email template to your staff, with all your necessary questions).
But keep in mind this works best with smaller teams. If you’re getting 50 requests a week, or you need to delegate tasks across a big department, then a higher-tech option may be more sustainable.
3. Use an online or paper form.
You may find yourself outgrowing the swing-by-my-desk-and-tell-me-what-you-need approach your staff has adopted for these requests. That’s where forms come in.
Direct your staff to submit a form with their needs. As the person setting the fields, forms really empower you to guide staff in providing the essentials – without having them cut corners. (If you’re wondering how to do this, tools like Google Forms are easy and free. But you can also build one in Microsoft Word.)
This is great for requests that are a bit more technical, or where the requirements are more finite.
4. Invest in a tool or ticketing system.
If your org’s needs are great and you have the capacity, then new technology may be just the thing you need!
A ticketing system is ideal for larger organizations with a lot of internal support to juggle, and a lot of staff to manage. But it is still very much a tech implementation, and needs to be a longer-term plan (not something you’ll get up and running overnight!).
And if you’re wondering “well, what systems are out there?”, move on to part 3 of this series.