In many large organization’s there exists a never ending loop of continual distractions which keeps key staff from actually executing at something less than peak performance. Routinely we see and hear of requirement to reduce and control overhead costs, this strategy ultimately seems to drive reduced head count over efficiencies. As roles are reconfigured to adapt to leaner organization’s, the requirement for the same level of expected output, required tasks, and role responsibilities becomes harder to achieve. It is typical that some tasks are not fully considered or communicated to those left behind and who are now expected to take responsibility for them…and do them as well as before. It is a continuous loop that begins to develop where by more responsibility is displaced among the remaining staff with the same hours, same expected level of execution, but ever increasing requirement’s for compliance to both internal and external regulations and guidelines. As a result, this also leads to more distractions through meetings, conference calls, emails, etc. and subsequently placing questionable non-value added time into the day to day functions.
The loop begins to deteriorate the business cycle when distractions such as meetings and conference calls shift from previous allocated functions to newly allocated functions. When I refer to distraction’s, I do not necessarily imply it to be a purely negative value, but often times it results in becoming just that. For each role in your organization, the person fulfilling that role is required to monitor, manage, and adjust certain business processes to achieve an expected level of output both by volume and quality. Any time taken away from the expectation of that mandate becomes a potential risk for failure. If your leadership staff spends all their time away from the process, the concern becomes; can the process run on autopilot and if so, why is there a need to have someone assigned in a role to monitor, manage, and control it? Consider a machine operator or field service person expected to perform at a given level of delivery. Understanding there are times when they should be expected to join into varying discussions or group meetings to stay connected and provide value added input towards current deliveries and future decisions. As an organization however, there should be an expectation the best performance buy an employee, is in actually performing their expected role. Also, delivery cannot be met without them performing their expected role so their time away from non-delivery activities are controlled and managed to only true value added activities…or should be anyhow. If they are constrained from actually performing their tasks, the business as a whole suffers..
Now apply that same logic to higher level staff. Are they really able to monitor, manage, and control the delivery cycle as expected, if a majority of their day consists of meetings, conference calls, and emails? Only a few business leaders actually take the time to mandate restrictions on activities taking away from a key staff members’ primary role… manage the process, department, etc. as daily conditions and situations arise. Granted everyone feels their meeting, conference call, or email is very important. One request individually is not bad, but when requests come from multiple directions and multiple people not necessarily linked to each other, the receiver of these requests can easily become inundated with a full day of nothing more than sitting in meeting’s or on the phone. Ultimately leading to a lack of monitoring, managing, and controlling the very processes they are expected to manage. The businesses which mange this well, place restrictions such as no meetings after 10am, or only 3 hours of meetings can be scheduled for any one person on any given day. Other ways to manage it are to indicate restrictions for certain days to be meeting or call free. Lastly, educate your staff on the actual need for the infamous “Reply All” email button.
I often see many organizations reduce head count on staff and shift work load to those who remain. While this step in and of itself is not necessarily a bad business process, the failure to trackback the full impact and requirement’s on those receiving the added responsibilities is risky for business. You might be surprised to find out how much work is sitting in someone’s backlog of things to do because they just don’t have enough time to get it all completed. Consider what would happen if that person could take a day or two to actually catch up. One attitude may be they are just not organized and should be able to handle the work load. Another still is they get paid to manage all the meetings and responsibility so they should simply deal with it. These attitudes typically reflect the desire to ignore as opposed to true leadership by example and mentoring for the future. The question becomes what happens if one of those things lying in their backlog of “I’ll get to it someday” turns into the crisis of the day from being previously ignored. Imaging the potential for output and delivery if your staff was given the time to actually complete and perform the very role they are expected to perform. You would be surprised to what the organization can accomplish.
O.M.E.M., LLC – Helping Businesses Improve