CIO Profile: Veolia's William Payne on sorting tasks and cutting out the rubbish

According to William Payne, UK CIO of Veolia’s waste recycling business, we are often confronted with a lot of large tasks which can be so daunting that we tend to put them off.

But if you break the big projects up into small, meaningful chunks, you’ll probably get started quicker. Furthermore, when you have a series of small units of work, you’re constantly finishing things, and you can derive satisfaction from the intermediate successes.

“You want to be continually delivering something,” says Payne. “This applies to me personally, but also to my team. We break things up into small tasks, which not only helps individuals, it also helps us as a team deliver products to our customers.

“If the customer sees you delivering things on a regular basis, there’s a tighter feedback loop and more interaction. That’s better than going off to do a large amount of work and telling the client you’ll be back in six months with the results. It’s a more collaborative approach.”

Payne advises spending most of your day working on one chunk at a time and zoning out all distractions.

“If you focus on a particular task, you’ll get things done,” he says. “One task might be to sift through your inbox and get all incoming messages out of the way.”

He has a simple rule on prioritising. If a task, meeting or email is not relevant to the business strategy or to delivering satisfaction to a customer, it’s not high priority.

“That’s a defensible position,” he says. “When people ask you why something didn’t get done, you can always show that you prioritised it lower because it wasn’t related to a particular customer or issue we consider important right now. It’s very hard for somebody to come back and say they disagree.

“People on my team know that’s how I operate, so we don’t have to go through each item in turn. All they have to do is apply the prioritisation rules.”

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