Busy People, Busy Organizations

For a lot of organizations, your value is determined as much by the amount of activity you exhibit, as it is by the value or quality of what you accomplish. It’s natural, for both leaders and employees, to want to be able to show a long list of activities they have going on. More must be better. Here’s some evidence:

  • A very successful retail firm that has grabbed a big chunk of market share over the past decade is governed by a key phrase: “Bias for action.” Meanwhile, company leaders are also getting frustrated that a lot of that action is not directed at things that will make a difference.
  • At one of our high-tech clients, a common method of validating your worth to the company is what’s acknowledged as the “Check the Box” approach. This means a lot of people focus on getting something done so they can show progress—regardless of its actual impact on profits, costs, or customers.

That’s our habit, but is it right? Well, I suspect you realize the answer is “No.” While it can create the illusion of busyness, an overload of activity has a lot of negative impacts:

  1. Diffusion of resources.  People’s time and focus are divided among an array of assignments, and progress slows.
  2. Unclear priorities.  The more balls you have in play, the harder it is for people to know which are the right ones to concentrate on. If priorities need to shift, it’s harder to adjust.
  3. Management Overload.  Too many initiatives turns you from a leader shepherding your investments to a frazzled herder of cats. The typical results (as noted by many leaders who have confessed to us through the years) is that they simply lose track of all the things going on.

One of the first actions to consider in your path to Change Leadership is to review and very likely reduce your number of active change efforts. This should not be seen as backing down from a challenge or not encouraging your people to “push the envelope.” It’s simply adopting a more focused and realistic set of priorities. Remember that the root of the word priority means first—when you limit the number of projects at any one time, you are not saying “These others aren’t important” or “We’re never going to touch that.”

By striking a better balance, you give yourself and your colleagues the opportunity to build a more appropriate “mix” in your portfolio. This means the right amount of change investment to meet your business goals, but without overtaxing your resources. The best way to achieve and maintain that kind of balanced portfolio—and ultimately boost your return—is through an ongoing allocation and review process.

– Excerpt from Pivotal Thought Leadership, Change and Constancy.  For more on the foundation concepts of Change Leadership, please review Change Leadership: A New Standard for 21st Century Leaders

About Pete Pande

Pete Pande, President of Pivotal Resources Inc., is a seasoned consultant in process improvement, organization change and Lean Six Sigma initiatives (he is one of the recognized "experts" in the field). He has provided senior executive training and deployment consulting services in business improvement and Six Sigma efforts for such companies as GE Capital, Sun Microsystems, Cendant, Cisco Systems, Starwood Hotels, Honeywell, Carlson Wagonlit Travel and many others. For more information, please visit www.pivotalresources.com/about/our-team-executive.html#pande
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