Replace recurring chaos with a RAM

Most teams have a lot of recurring tasks they have to keep track of, such as an HR team doing annual benefits ‘open enrollment’, or an IT Service Desk team reviewing weekly automated backup status messages, or an Accounting team doing their monthly book close, or that annual data audit people always forget to do.

Many teams remember those types of tasks in the heads of different people on the team. Some have recurring Outlook/G Suite calendar reminders.  Some have sticky notes.  Or smartphone alarms.  But all those approaches are prone to lots of issues (e.g. someone is sick on a key day, or someone leaves the organization and doesn’t transfer that knowledge well to new team members).

I’ve seen a lot of value in creating a centralized Recurring Activity Matrix (RAM), which can be a simple table in a wiki tool (e.g. Microsoft SharePoint, Atlassian Confluence) where a team can see what recurring activities exist, their frequency, and what procedure/checklist goes with that task.

I’ve found a great, simple, cheap approach is to publish that table and then create an automated, email reminder for each row using SendRecurring, which is a free or cheap service (depending on how many tasks you juggle) to send emails as a reminder, ideally to a system to ingest and publish them to the group, such as Atlassian Jira Service Desk (JSD).

Just creating this simple knowledge management tool and incrementally refining it, each time you identify something the group should know about it, is a great way to improve the operational resilience of a group, and drive people to identify the work they do (and ideally create procedures/checklists/processes to define them).

A RAM table could have columns like this:

  • Owning Team (if your organization has more than 1 team in it)
  • Task Name
  • Associated Task Procedure/Checklist (e.g. maybe a link to a wiki-based checklist or a formal process asset that defines the procedure)
  • Frequency (e.g. Weekly)
  • Trigger Day/Time (e.g. 28th of each month at 11am EST)

(I’ve written about this before, but I think it warrants another post because it can be so valuable for teams to do)

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