An Organizational Challenge

Culture: People First
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by | Mar 15, 2021 | Blog | 0 comments

As a kid, I loved playing Tetris. If you have never played Tetris, I’ll give you a general introduction: You are given a rectangular playing space on the video game screen. As the game starts, blocks of different shapes and sizes start dropping into the rectangle. Your job is to rotate and drop the blocks strategically to form horizontal lines leaving no blank spaces all before the block hits the bottom. If you do fill a complete line with blocks it disappears, and you score points. If you leave empty spaces in the line, the blocks just pile up higher and higher. There is one long, skinny block that occasionally shows up. If you plan your blocks well, you can get rid of four lines at a time using this long piece, and you get more points for doing so. That’s called a “Tetris.” As you gain points, you move to higher levels where the blocks drop faster, and the challenge gets tougher. (Fun fact: In 1992, There was even a thesis written by John Brzustowski at the University of British Columbia, about whether this game even had an end or if you were good enough, you could literally play forever.)

Like many people, COVID-19 has left me with many hours spent at home. How do I entertain myself? I organize. I organize bookshelves, closets, drawers, the pantry, and even the recycling has sorting labels and bins. Then I reorganize when I figure out an improved space-saving or visually appealing solution, much to the dismay of my partner who is never sure where to find anything because I’ve “improved” things 865 times. I see it as a personal challenge to make it more functional, more efficient, and look good all at the same time. Strategic, creative design and organized execution–two of my favourite things!

I love solving problems by connecting the dots of how things can work together, how people can help each other, how systems can work more efficiently. Whether large and complex or the arrangement of my utensil drawer, it doesn’t matter. I even love the challenge when things don’t work and there is potential to rearrange and figure out an even better way. If we move this here, or do this instead, will that solve or improve the problem? I especially love the sweet satisfaction when the puzzle clicks and the pieces all work together; like when you fit that long, skinny piece into the awaiting slot and all the corresponding lines clear away. Tetris!

After completing the CliftonStrengths assessment together, it was clear that our team at Vantage Point has numerous people with solid “Strategic” strengths; but the “Arranger”, part of the “Execution” strengths category, was one that I uniquely held on the team. Gallup, the assessment administrators, describe the “Arranger” as this: “People exceptionally talented in the Arranger theme can organize, but they also have a flexibility that complements this ability. They like to determine how all of the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity.”  For me, this piece is a clear fit.

Moving into the role of Operations Manager at Vantage Point gave me the opportunity to execute that “Execution” strength on our team. In this role, I work across all our teams to connect the dots. I look at how our systems are organized and aim to instill a structure of consistency that allows for flexibility and growth. Every day is my organizational challenge as I dream up ways to make things more functional, more efficient, and look good all at the same time! My focus is on keeping our administrative and technology systems running smoothly, identifying where processes are clunky, work is being doubled up and sometimes aligning people’s skills with tasks needing to be done. I assess where workflows might be adjusted, resources redistributed, or blocks rotated to reduce stress, save time, and improve our services. Then I execute and manage that project to enhance the system.

Overall, I try to make our work easier, maybe more cost-effective, and hopefully in some way, improved. Sometimes, like reorganizing your pantry, it gets messier before it gets better; but ultimately, I strive for the same goal of a strategic, creative design that allows for organized execution. My goal is to help our organization stay organized by continually strategizing what could be rearranged to make a stronger fit. I hope to make it easier for our talented team to do what they do, better. As Operations Manager, I see it as my job to organize the blocks in such a way that the people doing the important work at Vantage Point feel that same sense of satisfaction and success when their long piece slides into the awaiting slot in the puzzle and clears all the lines. Tetris!


Rachelle Smalldon headshot


Rachelle Smalldon

Rachelle loves working with not-for-profit organizations to make them more efficient, effective, and impactful. She has over 12 years experience supporting, training, and mentoring staff and volunteer leaders. Rachelle completed her undergrad in Communications Publication Design, and her MA in Educational Leadership. Her specialty is working with emerging leaders, with a wealth of experience supporting student and upcoming leaders to lead teams and excel in their roles. 

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