Easy as 1, 2, 3… 5, 9, 2, 26 and 15

I have made peace with the fact that I will never find comfort in chaos.

This week it seemed as though all the pieces fell into place as I came to a sudden realisation. The reason that I’ve always felt affinity with Monica from Friends, or Amy Santiago from Brooklyn Nine Nine, or even Claire Dunphy from Modern Family is my somewhat neurotic need for order. 

Hi, my name’s Nancy and I am obsessed with organisation. And I’m okay with it.

It’s never really quite made sense to me that there are those that prefer arriving at the airport just before the plane leaves or those that enjoy the thrill of frantically running to catch their train. Perhaps I’m simply a nervous traveller but I don’t think I’ve ever arrived at an airport less than at least two and half hours before my flight. Preferably three. Surely you need time to browse the shops in case you suddenly realise you need some extra toiletries, or you’ve forgotten to pack a plug adapter, or god forbid… your book! I have spent at least half an hour in an airport WHSmith despairing over what makes the perfect holiday read. Haven’t we all?

I may be exaggerating in my comparisons to these TV show characters. I haven’t bought a label maker… yet. And while I do love a good filing system, I haven’t alphabetised my book collection. But I do have a book shelf/shelves. This is where the books live. As I’m sure my partner has grown incredibly weary of me saying ‘everything in its place, and a place for everything.’ Yes I hear the neurosis but there’s logic to it. As I keep pointing out to said partner, if everything lives in a particular place then you won’t keep losing things.

While I recognise that not everyone adopts my level of crazy when it comes to organisation, I have been surprised in learning that some companies don’t seem to value its importance. There have been instances in which I’ve joined firms and discovered that they have no internal shared drive or storage platform/software for their files. And if they did, it wasn’t in use. They’ve also forgoed the creation of file templates or even an induction procedure for new employees.

I didn’t quite understand how they functioned without these vital processes and when I pointed this out, I was either asked to implement a filing system (which on one occasion ended up being used rather effectively thankfully), or I was informed that internal comms and operational procedures simply weren’t a priority. Employees did not need to work together on projects and so collaboration was not of importance.

But surely these things make up the foundation of any company? If not, isn’t everything merely reactive? Without a plan in place, how does a business know where it’s going or what it’s trying to achieve? Perhaps I think in these terms because as a child, my father would often drill the old ‘fail to plan and plan to fail’ trope into my head. He was a big believer in planning ahead and writing down what you were going to say before you said it. I can’t tell you how many budgets I had to put together as a teen if I ever asked to borrow money for some ‘frivolous expenditure‘ as he would put it. Though that’s not because we couldn’t afford luxuries. I come back from a rather privileged background in which I was lucky enough to grow up in very comfortable surroundings, something for which I am very grateful. But again, as baba would say ‘you think all this money came from nowhere? Money doesn’t grow on trees Nancy, you have to earn it. I came from nothing and look where I am now.’ Is it any surprise he told me to get a job at the age of 15? Though again, I am eternally grateful for these lessons. I even appreciate the hours spent going through the dozens of files he stores in his home office, each with its own set of binders and plastic sleeves and labels.

The idea that a business can operate using haphazard systems or without a clearly defined set of guidelines, or even without an organisational in place or a strategy makes me wonder whether I’m too rigid in my views of what organisation should be and how it should work. Maybe my love of bulleted lists, instructional handbooks and reference guides are stifling opportunities for spontaneity. Then again, I’m not sure having to think on my toes all the time and instantaneously come up with solutions to new situations is great for my anxiety. 

Ultimately everyone works differently. There is perhaps no right or wrong way to organise your business, or indeed life. Though I would caution that as a company, being dismissive of your employees requests for support in understanding the operational systems may not be conducive to creating a culture in which they can do their jobs to the best of their ability.  

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