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As a consultant, I am frustrated at the lack of motivation incumbent teams often show. It would definitely come across badly if I tried to indicate to them that I do things more efficiently, but how can I at least indicate that there are better ways to do things, ways to harness energy, and ways to avoid iniefficient effort?

As one example where I have had some success - one client used to hold long meetings which took up huge amounts of time and had very poor attendance. I volunteered to chair these, and now they are much shorter, people get more done, and attendance is almost 100%.

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Rory, they probably know but would suffer a strike to their pride if they'd admit it. That seems to be a theme in humanity. I was angry until I realized people knew themselves. Professionals need to be self aware to get into positions of authority. Unfortunately, people in those positions also have a tendency to cling obsessively to respect. When I am trying to tell someone whose station is above mine something that might injure his or her pride, I put them into a role that won't be threatening to the same but results in the desired understanding. They speak the statements into awareness. – Wolfpack'08 Oct 21 '11 at 16:48
up vote 7 down vote accepted

I think the easiest way to start is to ask questions that you need for your own GTD and make it a consistent, visible vocabulary.

I suspect you are already doing it, if you are chairing the meetings, by asking for "the next actions" to complete the meeting.

I found that if I keep asking "So, what's the next action and on whom" over and over again over a period of time, people I work with are starting to understand the mental steps I expect them to go through.

I also keep Waiting For items on things delegated and make sure to follow up and mention explicitly that I will follow up again on specific date.

This allows people to have their own methods as long as they can provide you with actionable information. I disagree with @Renan that Autonomy is an excuse for inefficiency. I think most of the time, the inefficiency is just a lack of return on investment for doing things efficiently, such as broken feedback loops, lack of consequences for failure, inability to escalate, etc.

Of course, as a consultant, you may not have enough visibility and duration to affect real change. That's a true challenge.

(Addendum) And if somebody gets moderately interested, I bought a bunch of GTD classic books and "lend" them (not really expecting them back). At $10 a book (from Amazon), it is cheaper than spending lunch time explaining the process. And it gives me a chance to follow up with them later and ask whether it worked for them.

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I think I agree on the duration; often the longest I am on site is 3 or 4 months, although sometimes I am incumbent for a number of years, which is why I feel like I want to help improve the environment. – Rory Alsop Jun 27 '11 at 14:48
+1 for saying "So, what's the next action" as often as possible. – J.T. Hurley Jun 27 '11 at 15:20
As a consultant you have to be wary of backlash. The best way to help is to lead by example and as Alexandre says ask the questions that cause others to wonder why you care and how you'll use the information. The people who will ultimately have the capacity to implement your productivity/GTD techniques will take the next step of following your lead on their own, the others may not care enough to try so pushing isn't going to help. – Adam Wuerl Jun 27 '11 at 15:46

Don't spoil the new employees with all your best tools and productivity techniques. They haven't been through the problems you've experienced and are likely to not understand why it has to be done that specific way. This can be the reason why some of your employees are not motivated to work. Autonomy is an important part of a career and you may be suffocating them with strict work practices.

It's healthier to let them find their own solutions to the daily problems you're used to. Let them come up with their own solutions to daily problems or use what they've always been doing. You get a chance to know better your new employees and who knows? You might even learn something.

Save the best advices for when they ask you. Everything tastes better when you are hungry. You can try working at a slower pace but showing off discretely how your way get things done faster. Someone's eventually going to be interested in your techniques.

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good points. Although this is not me employing others, but working as a consultant in other organisations your points are still valid. – Rory Alsop Jun 27 '11 at 12:48

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