I’ve got a million things to do…

•September 26, 2016 • Comments Off on I’ve got a million things to do…

hi_so_busyI’ve run across a recurring theme lately that’s been extremely frustrating. Everybody is busy. I don’t mean productive either.

Families are busy. Workers are busy. Managers are busy. In all of this busyness we’re missing the part about living well, about performing and expending effort without seeing meaningful outcomes and being productive. Dictionary.com lists their #2 definition of busyness as “lively but meaningless activity”.  Do you see a lot of lively activity around you but little meaning or VALUE being produced? I do.

For a long time there has been a push in business to reduce staff in order to reduce cost. People are expensive. Every time there is a mandate to reduce costs, cut budgets, and make the numbers we see people as the first thing to go. My frustration is that there’s NEVER a reduction of work. In fact, I’d argue that work always increases unless the goal of the business is to get smaller, produce less or shrink market share.

Now if you’re reducing people because of efficient and effective automation and your efforts improve EVERYTHING then OK. But I rarely see this as the result of staff reductions. What actually happens is some poor schmuck gets MORE work every time there’s another reduction.

I’ve worked in organizations that have had too much bureaucracy, too much process and too many people to deal with which resulted in nothing getting done. I’ve also worked with those who have cut and cut and cut, sometimes entire departments at a time. The result is everyone has too much work for anyone to be efficient and there is too little knowledge to be effective so…nothing gets done.

So where’s the logic in this? If you are one of those who have cut staff to cut costs Here’s a few areas where you’re wrong:

YOU’RE KILLING YOUR PEOPLE

Did you cut staff because they had nothing or little to do? Did you give their work to someone who had nothing or little to do?

If either of those are true then it is leadership or management who needs to go not the worker. Since nobody is admitting that then you’re just creating new problems for yourself by loading too much work on too few people. Like the scene in the 1927 silent film Metropolis where workers can’t keep up with the work, only two outcomes can occur: Workers fail (aka stress, anxiety or resignation) or the work fails.

You may not realize it but most workers take responsibility without saying no. They will want to perform even if they feel overwhelmed. They will continue to try and prioritize and manage their time until they break. The last thing they will do is look you in the eye and say; which of these tasks do you not want to get done? They should.

YOU’RE UNDERMINING REAL PRODUCTIVITY OPPORTUNITIES

This reminds me of the carpenters joke: I’ve cut it and cut it and cut it and it’s still too short. When leadership and management strikes the staff reduction bell first without considering what happens next or without first addressing creative and innovative productivity options then the clanging resonance will cause severe repercussions.

When leadership and management believes staff reductions are the answer they’ve missed the opportunity to tap into workers knowledge, creativity and their understanding of where waste and operational stupidity could be overcome. Dismissing people removes their cost but also removes their intellectual property and insight. You’ll not replace that with a H1-B worker either. It’s gone.

NOBODY TRUSTS YOU

The most powerful thing any leader has is the trust of those around them. Despite leadership and managements best efforts to appear wise and intellectual, the ever increasing burden you place on workers, due to reductions, who must assume more and more workload will immediately cause them to not trust your judgement. If you once had their trust the best thing you’ve got now is their fear.

Workers who’ve survived repetitious “all hands” meetings where the latest restructuring efforts are communicated followed by staff reductions know they could be next. They know there is no guarantee they’ll be employed tomorrow. They’ve seen too many great coworkers escorted out and their knowledge lost. Each day they come to work with heads down and a CYA attitude. It’s a survival game. This new learned attitude may manifest itself in a quite spirit, aka hiding, or it could release outbursts of aggressiveness, intolerance and anger. Sound familiar?

Your front line people, the ones doing actual work, will quickly see the failure of your judgement through inefficiencies, ineffective outcomes and subdued negative cultures. This will most likely kick in their fight or flight response. If they chose to fight they will try and figure out which tasks are really important and which ones can go undone. In large organizations fighting means hiding or masking productivity to appear busy or divert blame. You’ll commonly hear the busyness, I’ve got a million things to do, excuse. After all, everybody is now too busy to pay much attention and can relate so the lack of productivity is easily accepted. You may not even notice the slowing of the corporate machine.

If they chose to flee then…their gone. You once again lose their knowledge, their experience and insight and their intellectual contributions, and likely to a competitor.

BTW – If I were running a growing business in your market I’d be monitoring when my competitors release staff. I’d immediately hire them either as full time, part time or contractors and put them on a skunk-works team to discover your weakness, your initiatives and then develop innovative ways to bury you.

YOU WILL ACHEIVE EXACTLY WHAT YOU DO NOT WANT

Here’s another surprise. Multitasking is a myth. Nobody can do more than one thing at a time. If you believe that you are a good multitasker others see you as unfocused and lacking discipline. That’s a fact. If I hear people excuse inaction or missed deadlines due to being busy I immediately think they lack the ability to prioritize and focus. This more than likely rolls up the chain meaning they’ve been given more to do and no leadership in setting priorities about what is important.

As stated earlier, leadership and management may never see how the organization is slowing down. Cutting staff forces others to consume more time doing less work because they’ve lost the capacity to collaborate with others. Timelines extend and efforts actually weaken as the organization accepts the “do more with less” mandates.

Those making the decisions must bear the responsibility.

IN SUMMARY

Every business will face times when budgets demand some form of reduction. If leadership is keeping an eye on the far horizons and making preparations ahead of time you can manage through these times and protect workers and their critical knowledge. How can you do this? Well that’s the subject of another Welcome to My Opinion – Here’s Why You’re Wrong post.

If you’ve got a particular item you’d like me to comment about let me know.

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The Most Productive People Know Who to Ignore

•August 20, 2014 • Comments Off on The Most Productive People Know Who to Ignore

You can’t remove emotion from the equation. Emotion separates us from animal and machine. Understanding our emotional component and managing it to help us be more focused in our goal is critical.

Running Toward Trouble

•November 26, 2013 • Comments Off on Running Toward Trouble

The BRAVEST of all are those who run toward trouble even danger in spite and in the face of fear. Soldiers run into battle with the accepted possibility of death to secure and preserve freedom. Firemen run into burning homes and buildings risking their lives to save others. Policemen serve and uphold the law keep order ensure safety and protect the public exposing themselves daily to potential danger. These are true heroes.

What can leaders learn from the bravest men and women of them all?

When your organization is in turmoil, when your ideas are challenged and decisions picked apart. When employees complain, fight and become demotivated it’s time for everyone to run into the face of these difficult times and work together to save something! But most companies do not create an environment conducive to fixing problems and creating solutions. It is more likely that employees run away from difficulty and leaders shrink from confronting issues. If you would like to change ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you created a culture that is capable and confident enough to challenge the business AND work toward vision aligned solutions? This is known as Buy-In.
  • Do your teams have the information and insight to recognize when the business is weaving and swerving and roll up their sleeves to confront and correct course?
  • Does leadership have the wisdom to accept criticism, reflect honestly on its accuracy and empower the team to work together for positive change?
  • Does everyone in the organization understand their role, their contribution, their part and BELIEVE that their ideas have merit, value and respect enough to be heard and acted upon?

If you can answer YES then you are indeed fortunate to have heroes in your midst. When trouble comes they will turn toward it – they will save the day even if you must get out of the way.

What Makes Leaders Matter More

•November 12, 2013 • Comments Off on What Makes Leaders Matter More

The first few paragraphs hit the mark with me. That’s the issue most struggling leaders face. Fnding that place, time and culture where it all comes together

Foundations and Framing

•November 2, 2013 • Comments Off on Foundations and Framing

“Every uncomfortable transaction has a frame. The question is who sets it. Allowing others to set the frame is relying on luck.” ~Bob Burg, Adversaries into Allies

Not only “uncomfortable transactions” but any transaction would have a frame AND a foundation. Relationships and reputation are the foundation and connections are the frame. Both foundation setting and frame building can take a long time and unless you’ve built with care and quality a sudden storm could do damage.

Choose wisely the connections you make then cherish and protect the relationships that come from them and your foundation will be strong enough to rebuild after a storm and your reputation will sustain your progress.

First Cast a Stone

•July 6, 2013 • Comments Off on First Cast a Stone

I’ve not followed the recent plight of Paula Deen but my understanding is that, under oath in court, she admitted that in her past she had uttered a racial slur. Because of her truthful admission of this, possibly decades ago, she now endures public media scorn and financial setbacks from sponsors. This reminds me of a story from the Bible in John chapter 8: 

[While Jesus was at the Mount of Olives early one morning He came into the temple. All the people then came to Him and He sat down and taught them. While He taught, the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman who had been caught committing adultery. They publically sat her in the midst of the group and said to Jesus; Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. The Law of Moses commands us that such sin should be punished by death and she should be stoned: but what do you say? They said all of this, tempting Him, that they might accuse Him of blasphemy against the Law of Moses. This would then be punishable by death. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He didn’t hear them. When they continued asking He stood up and said to them; He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.]

Now let’s go back a few years or even decades in YOUR LIFE. Have YOU ever said something you regret or that you wouldn’t say today? Can you cast a stone? We need to see the manipulative effect of the media and the fickleness of both executives and marketing. Those same executives who make decisions to drop Paula Deen are no different than the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They have a singular motive and agenda and it isn’t pure, wholesome or driven by a set of core moral values. The media isn’t attempting to defend a standard of conduct or promote civility and justice. They only seek the sensational to appeal to unwitting and undiscerning audiences who are easily influenced.

Paula Deen is just like you and I. She was before a Judge and sworn to tell the truth.  She did so without hesitation and received stones thrown from those who may be equally guilty of the same things. Just like the scribes and Pharisees, the media and sponsors tempt us and want us to believe they are virtuous and without fault. They act as if they can distance themselves from themselves and consumers and the public won’t notice. After all, many will still sell offensive music and other materials that use the same word(s). So it really has nothing to do with what she said.

For me – I think I’ll skip the Food Channel and others who foolishly attempt to trick me into believing they are without sin and so eager to “first cast a stone”.

INFLUENCE – It’s a Super Power

•June 23, 2013 • Comments Off on INFLUENCE – It’s a Super Power

Yes I believe in the power of influence and the greatness that it creates. There is also a dark side to influence…

You can use it for good or evil. But your influence capital is limited and precious. You can spend it foolishly or wisely. Wisely spent influence capital comes back to you in many positive ways. Long standing friendships with significant contributors who help build you up and positively impact your life and work. Solid business and personal relationships and rewarding experiences that return positive spiritual, emotional, professional and financial gains. Foolishly spend influence capital and you will still build something it will just be on the growing negative side of all those things.

Wasted influence is opportunity lost. When you have the chance to be in the company of positive influences or the opportunity to increase your own influence capital – like trying new experiences, accepting new challenges or stepping outside your comfort zone – and you choose NOT to accept the opportunity then you’ve wasted influence. You will regret it.

Positive Influence begins with a positive character and spreads to a positive worldview and leads to positive actions that return positive results. Such influence builds up others and creates a “rising tide that lifts all boats”.

Look for those people, actions and things that BUILD UP in positive ways then spend, cultivate and grow your influence there.