No Crisis? What to do about a lull in work

I know I’m tempting fate but it was a quiet weekend – no new referrals. I may find that by the time I get in a whole host of chaotic events may have occurred, but I doubt it beyond the usual casework issues that arise.

So to explain, I lead a team of child protection workers and we are one of two initial assessment teams for a district in Perth. The two teams take turns with new referrals and this week is our week.

The week can range from “holy shit, they’re coming right for us” to Jeff Lebowski-like calm.

Do we do nothing? Nope, there is plenty of work to be done I’m sure, for me and my team. This isn’t an army like situation of asking them to clean coal. 

What I can do is help prioritise some other smaller pieces of work that have been lingering. Maybe some recent allocations that haven’t got off the ground yet. Maybe sight a child or family that have been elusive.

So getting into work my first job is to confirm whether it’s as quiet as it looks. All being good, I can then review existing cases and make a decision about tasks to prioritise.

I communicate this to the response workers for today, with some broad suggestions for tasks to be undertaken. Generally though, I prefer the workers to plan the case, as an exercise in assessment.

I can review the situation over the course of the day, in case urgent issues arise.

The point of all this is simply that a lull in work does mean a lull in prioritising. I want to keep the response workers active in case something does come up. If they are too heavily focused on their own cases then they might become unavailable, even though they are still doing their job. It allows for responsiveness in case crisis does develop, and in child protection that’s critical.

Crisis Management 

Checked my work email this morning to find a number of crises developed overnight, so already I’m the fan of destiny prepped for the bowel discharge of fate.

Time is short on this morning’s bus ride, so this is a short blog entry about prepping for crisis.

1. Keep the routine as much as possible. I exercise in the morning before work. It would be tempting to forego this and head straight to the office, but the short term benefit of an extra hour would be extinguished by the long term break in routine. Better to exercise, be refreshed, and come into work all set.

2. Reprioritise, don’t panic. Crisis does not equal disaster. There may be a number of options available. I had planned on a number of things today, but clearly I’ll need to reorganise. This is different from ignoring what I plannned today – some of it will be quite important. If I need to move things to tomorrow or later it should be controlled and assessed, not simply dumped. That way I maintain control.

3. Communicate with the team. Not everyone will be needed to respond, but everyone should know what the situation is, and depending on the seriousness of the situation be able to reorganise and reprioritise their work. This means holding a quick briefing – I call these Scrums – of about 5 minutes to give everyone the details. This helps the team anticipate need and plan their own workload to help their colleagues.

So there are 3 quick nuggets for managing crisis. Incorporate it into your routine, not the other way round. Have an organised reorganisation of work priorities. Communicate with the team. All this will help develop a cohesive and disciplined response.