Usability - Productivity - Business - The web - Singapore & Twins

Rethinking Getting Things Done - GGTD

I'm a big fan of David Allen's GTD and its implementation in Lotus Notes eProductivity for personal productivity. Staying on top of my commitments and priorities surly helps to keep blood pressure and frustration levels at bay.
Lately I started wondering: what's next? GTD is one of the techniques (like principled negotiation) that work even better when your counterparts use it too. So I thought how would GGTD need to look like: Getting Group Things done?
Musing about that opens an interesting set of questions around collaboration culture. It appears to me that " who can task whom with what" is one of the biggest enterprise taboos once you leave the realm of a call center.
An indicator for the sensitivity of that topic is the low use of group tasks in most organisations. If I remember correctly being able to send a task instead of an eMail is available in Lotus Notes for a decade. However I hardly see that in practise. Even my boss rather sends me an eMail with a request: "I need this and that report until this this deadline" than making it a task (could be an UI issue?). On the other hand, we do use Lotus Connections Activities quite a bit including the To Do functionality there (which opens the other can of worms: task list fragmentation).
So the question is: what are the "rules of engagement" for requesting more formal actions? Unstructured/informally task assignments happen all the time: " I need... Could you... Please provide ...". This is why one of the most used buttons in my use of eProductivity is "Copy into new Action". The list of questions is rather long (but far from complete):
  • What level of collaboration and trust allows me to create an action for you?
  • Does a task have the stigma of a "command" rather than being a "request"?
  • Do I need a mechanism to "suggest" an action?
  • Would I share my (GTD) project(s) with you or state the classifications I made?
  • What mechanism are acceptable to signal completion of actions and follow-on actions?
  • Would I give you anytime access to the list of topics I want to clarify with you? How would formal and informal workflows reflected in GGTD?
  • A decade ago I implemented the first version of EasyOffice that featured contextual workflows. Every correspondence (read: GTD project) had a person "currently in charge" with complete visibility for all project members. It would suggest "typical next actions" based on the project meta data. Would that help in a GGTD context?
  • One cornerstone of GTD is the trust I have in the system. If I participate in a group driven system, can I extent my trust there? Can I trust the participants and can I trust the technology?
  • What needs to be done to retain that sense of "I am in control" for all participants?
  • Will a shared task system make me liable for all my actions?
Looking at all these questions I see parallels to the introduction of calendaring and scheduling. I still encounter organizations and individuals who refuse to use a scheduling application since they don't want to be "machine driven" (My rule: you want my time, you send an invite. I do not copy meeting dates from eMails to calendar entries). So a lot of smart thinking needs to be done to get this right. And there is a next frontier: EGTD (make your guess what that means).

Posted by on 07 December 2010 | Comments (3) | categories: GTD


  1. posted by Christian Zalto on Wednesday 08 December 2010 AD:
    Well, there actually are methods for "Getting Group Things done" - typically these are called "Project management".
    There are even solutions for "Getting Organizations Things done" - this is Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).
    I understand that this might not be as ad-hoc and granular as you would expect. But shouldn't well- organized organizations always put their "group tasks" into a project or a business process context to align it with the actual business needs?
  2. posted by Stephan H. Wissel on Wednesday 08 December 2010 AD:
    @Christian: if ERP (or CRM or PM) would work as a productivity tool then this ever swelling river of eMails would not happen.
    Eventually a coming, social enabled, wave of this tools might do the trick, but I doubt it. But I more than happily would stand corrected.
    Emoticon biggrin.gif stw
  3. posted by Nigel Choh on Thursday 09 December 2010 AD:
    Hi Stephan,

    An interesting idea with lots of possibilities.

    Where I work right now, there does not seem to have many processes. Where they do exist, they were created through ITSM. However, no one seems to like to create processes on my team. So we work on formal enhancement requests and nothing else is formal.

    Interestingly, the GGTD would be, in my mind, easier to implement than implementing some process. GGTD would change the emailing and politiking culture as you mentioned. If it could be achieved, then I could see great effeciency gains.