Andrew Ward, Director of Optimum Advisory, is a business and HR leader, organisation development consultant, and amateur GTD® evangelist. He has worked in and for organisations large and small, multinational and domestic, in the UK and US and in industries including consulting, financial services, telecoms and biscuits. Andrew is a graduate of the University of Oxford and has an MBA from London Business School. He is a certified NLP Practitioner, long-time GTD user and former client of Next Action Associates.
Roald Dahl’s BFG famously tells Sophie, ‘don’t gobblefunk around with words.’ David Allen certainly took that to heart when he came up with the name for his system and bestseller – Getting Things Done®. It’s what drew me to GTD 10 years ago.
The simplicity and directness of that phrase is what first drew me to the book 10 years ago when I came across it on a list of ’10 Books Every Manager Should Read’. Of the books on the list, it was the one whose title spoke most powerfully to what I was wrestling with – finding better ways to get done what I wanted and needed to. It’s become a phrase I use every day.
“Getting things done” wouldn’t have resonated nearly as strongly 10 years earlier when life was simpler. In those days, early in my career – probably in many corporate careers then if not so much anymore – life was relatively straightforward; I didn’t have all that many choices to make. My focus was mostly on work, my responsibilities were relatively narrow, and my workload reasonably well managed by others.
But by the time I came across GTD, things had become very different. For one thing, life had got way more complicated. I owned a home. I had a family. I was a College Governor. At work I had teams to lead and support. I was the one setting priorities, defining goals and managing workloads. The scope of my work and the number of people relying on me had exploded and so had their expectations. Life had become much much more complicated and the choices I was having to make far greater in number and importance.
At the same time I was going through my Dilbert phase getting increasingly frustrated with, but also fascinated by, how hard organisations made it for talented, enthusiastic people to get things done. I’d studied strategy, finance and marketing in my MBA. But what we weren’t taught and most intrigued me, as it does Scott Adams, is why so much time and effort seemed to be wasted on often very simple stuff.
I was looking for answers when I came across that Top 10 list. I’d studied NLP, productivity, organisational effectiveness and behavioural science. I’d even changed careers to work in HR and Organisation Development. But of all things I’ve learned, Getting Things Done, as a book, a system and a way of managing my life has proved the most practical, relevant and useful, something I’ve now worked with and evangelised for the last 10 years.
There is much about the GTD system that resonates and, more importantly, really works; some of my favourite elements are the Next Action focus, the Capture and Review habits, the Workflow, and the Natural Planning Model. But what most appeals – and what I use most often as an amateur GTD evangelist – is what drew me to GTD in the first place, the simple focus on “getting things done.”
Three simple words, certainly not “gobblefunk,” but extremely powerful and too often forgotten amongst discussion of visions, strategies and goals. Bossidy and Charan in their great book, ‘Execution’, highlighted it as the most crucial of all corporate capabilities. It’s at the heart of most leadership models. These days it’s also the first thing I look for when recruiting – the ability to get things done.
Tony Robbins talks about the power of Transformational Vocabulary: “By changing your habitual vocabulary… you can instantaneously change how you think, how you feel, and how you live.” Making Getting Things Done part of my everyday vocabulary has certainly had that impact on my productivity. It’s done the same for the teams I’ve worked with who have adopted it as a mantra. It’s a powerful, potentially transformative phrase and one the BFG would be delighted with I’m sure.