The Parking Lot: Dealing with the Small Stuff can Net Big Results

We are in the midst of the world-wide pandemic, civil unrest and financial instability, both as organizations and as individuals. Whether you have been impacted dramatically or in small ways, there is no escaping an impact on some level. How do we counter the uneasiness?  We can’t fix everything. Frankly, we can’t really make even a small dent in most things. But we can still accomplish something, and that “something” can join forces with others’ “somethings” to begin a little forward momentum in a world desperately in need of the positive.

Doug Johnson, one of our consultants of many years at PGS, has always said “Productivity is the basis of morale.” I can’t count the number of times over the years he joined a staff meeting flying high. He had had a productive morning, crossing things off his to-do list and accomplishing tasks. He would say “Productivity really is the basis of morale.” Accomplishing tasks energizes you to accomplish more tasks. And that energy and sense of accomplishment improves your morale.

How to do that in practical terms in your organization?  One of the tools we use in our Vision Navigation strategic planning process is called the Parking Lot.  As the team brainstorms the large potential improvement projects to include on the plan – the internal issues that once fixed will strengthen the organization – they inevitably list a myriad of small projects or problems.

Any items they come up with that are easy fixes, involving only one or two team members, no meetings, low expenditure, etc., are put on a Post-It and added to a flip chart paper named the Parking Lot.  At the end of the meeting, the Parking Lot Post-It notes are sorted and organized, typed up and the tasks distributed to appropriate team members to complete.

Our Parking Lot of tasks allows a group to get into productivity quickly and effectively, usually to the delight of coworkers and subordinates who have struggled themselves with those same Parking Lot issues.  One of our previous team members, Jen Jarvis, talked about entering a new organization as branch manager and asking staff for their pain points (Parking Lot issues) with the branch.  One of them was the time spent standing by a shredder disposing of sensitive patient files one piece at a time.  Jen’s solution? She hired a secure shredding company to come once a month and pick up the papers needing shredding. The savings in staff time was significant, but the boost in morale was huge.  Productivity is the basis of morale.

Can you create a Parking Lot of sorts in your office? Find out from staff where the they lose time, productivity or energy on the day to day tasks they are responsible for. If there are any that are small, inexpensive fixes, you have yourself a Parking Lot issue. For those that are bigger or more expensive to resolve, collect them and respond to staff that they were heard. Then bring those issues to your next strategic planning session to determine if any rise to the level of internal improvement projects for the plan year.

Questions or want a kickstart on a Parking Lot for your organization? Give us a call or email to get started.

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“…I love Bill’s book. He introduces 7 Questions you can use to partner with your people for better performance…Use Bill Dann’s good questions, and I guarantee not only that you will become a better leader/manager, but that your people will become better performers.”

Ken Blanchard
Coauthor of The One Minute Manager and Cofounder of the Ken Blanchard Companies