A Year End Audit

CHICAGO , December 11, 2013 () – There are lots of audits that business must or should do. Many have to do with the financial aspects of running an enterprise and often require signoff on the results from an independent expert, generally an accounting company. Others include quality or safety or sanitation or environmental compliance audits done internally or by a third party. All are useful assessment tools and provide the basis for evaluating ‘how we’ve done’ as well as the benchmark for improvement in the future.

In the course of finishing off a calendar year and looking ahead to the next, there is an opportunity for personal introspection as well. Think about this activity as a valuable personal audit - how did my year go and what will I do to make the next one better? Now these personal audits should not be restricted to the end of the year; major milestones like project completions, new responsibilities and the like can also be valid triggers. For the moment though, let’s think a bit about a year end personal audit.

My engineering mindset drives me to look for gaps and think about ways to solve the problems those gaps represent. That’s a useful approach to a personal audit, so long as gap analysis doesn’t mean excessively beating myself up for all the ways and times I fell short during the year.

When something major doesn’t go as well as it should it makes sense to quickly figure out if there was a ‘special cause’ (to use quality parlance) and fix it right then. My sense regarding the year-end personal audit is that it’s more productive to think about patterns, which I can use to identify my ‘process gaps’. These are the behaviors or tendencies I have which, while not creating failures or big messes during the year, make me less effective and efficient than I could be.

To get personal about it, like you I am constantly moving between assignments for different clients, with multiple projects going on more in parallel than in sequence. My process gap of sometimes waiting a bit to get the files on a completed project sorted and where appropriate archived, is not unique to me.

When I have to search for information that might have been readily available had I done that work right at project completion, I’m under-optimizing my ability to do work for clients. Since I treat extra mental make-ready time resulting from my process shortcomings as off the clock time, if I’m in a busy period, I end up working later to get things done on time.

That’s just one example; I have others I’ve identified and you will have your own. The point is that just as the packaging industry prospers by continuing to create more value for customers through process improvement, we each have an opportunity to figure out our key work processes, find the gaps (limiting factors), and make some changes. Please don’t see these as ‘resolutions’ that too often are big stretches that lead to disappointment, but rather stay in the process thinking mode, and take multiple discrete steps to upgrade your processes.

When we are more valuable for our employer, customers or clients, we get more chances to do exciting and meaningful things. And feel more satisfaction in our work endeavors. It’s worth the introspection time and reinforces that we all have an opportunity to constantly find ways to do our work better. When I see my work career as a journey, I am far more open to the possibilities for learning and actually have a really good shot at increasing my feeling of fulfillment.

Be gentle, but firm with yourself and I think you’ll like the journey and the outcomes. All the best as you head into 2014.

Timothy Bohrer is the owner of Pac Advantage Consulting: http://www.pacadv.com/

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