“The bottom line is, when people are crystal clear about the most important priorities of the organization and team they work with and prioritized their work around those top priorities, not only are they many times more productive, they discover they have the time they need to have a whole life.” — Stephen Covey
Some teams and organizations fight fires all the time. They are in constant fire-fighter mode.
And they are ineffective.
Ineffective Organizations Fight Fires, Fight Each Other, Meet All the Time, and Are the Last to Know
Some teams are always in meetings. Everything is a meeting. They, too, are ineffective. Some teams are always fighting or feuding. And they are ineffective. And some teams are clueless. They didn’t get the memo, or they don’t have the latest and greatest information. And they are ineffective.
In The Essential Drucker, Peter Drucker writes about the 4 major time-wasters caused by organizational and management deficiency.
The 4 Major Time-Wasters of Ineffective Management
According to Drucker, here are the 4 major time-wasters caused by management and organizational deficiency:
- Lack of system or foresight – One time waster is a recurring crisis. This means there’s a lack of system foresight to anticipate and respond effectively.
- Overstaffing – Another time waster is friction and feuding among teams. This is usually a sign of overstaffing.
- Malorganization – Another time waster is too many meetings. Too many meetings are often a sign of the wrong organizational structure.
- Malfunction in information – Another significant time waster is bad information. People need accurate, relevant, timely information to do do their jobs well.
1. Lack of System or Foresight
If you’re facing a recurrent crisis, then it’s a lack of system foresight.
“The first organizational time-wasters result from lack of system or foresight. The symptom to look for is the recurrent ‘crisis,’ the crisis that comes back year after year.
A crisis that recurs a second time is a crisis that must not occur again. The annual inventory crisis belongs here. That with the computer we now can meet it even more ‘heroically’ and at greater expense then we could in the past is hardly a great improvement.
A recurrent crisis should always have been foreseen. It can therefore either be prevented or reduced to a routine that clerks can manage. The definition of a ‘routine’ is that it makes unskilled people without judgment capable of doing what it took near-genius to do before; for a routine puts down in systematic, step-by-step form what a very able person learned in surmounting yesterday’s crisis.”
Time-waste is a byproduct of overstaffing.
“Time-waste often results from overstaffing. A workface may, indeed, be too small for the task. And the work then suffers, if it gets done at all. But this is not the rule.
Much more common is the workforce that is too big for effectiveness, the workforce that spends, therefore, an increasing amount of time ‘interacting’ rather than working.”
A Reliable Symptom of Overstaffing
If you’re spending more than a small time on feuds and friction, then it’s a sign of overstaffing
“There is a reliable symptom of overstaffing. If the senior people in the group—and of course the manager in particular – spend more than a small fraction of their time, maybe one-tenth, on ‘problems of human relations,’ on feuds and frictions, on jurisdictional disputes and questions of cooperation, and so on, then the workforce is almost certainly too large.
People get into each other’s way. People have become an impediment to performance, rather than the means thereto.
In a lean organization people have room to move without colliding with one another and can do their work without having to explain it all the time.”
If you’re spending all your time in meetings, it’s a symptom of malorganization.
“Another common time-waster is malorganization. Its symptom is an excess of meetings. Meetings are by definition a concession to deficient organization. For one either meets or one works. One cannot do both at the same time.
In an ideally designed structure (which in a changing world is of course only a dream), there would be no meetings. Everybody would know what he needs to know to do his job. Everyone would have the resources available to him to do his job.
We meet because people holding different jobs have to cooperate to get a specific task done. But above all, meetings have to be the exception rather than the rule.
An organization in which everybody meets all the time is an organization in which no one gets anything done. Wherever a time log shows the fatty degeneration of meeting – whenever, for instance, people in an organization find themselves in meetings a quarter of their time or more – there is time wasting malorganization.”
Too Many Meetings Signal the Wrong Org Structure
Meetings should not be the main demand of a knowledge worker’s time.
“As a rule, meetings should never be allowed to become the main demand on a knowledge worker’s time. Too many meetings always bespeak poor structure of jobs and the wrong organizational components.
Too many meetings signify that work that should be in one component is spread over several jobs or several components. They signify that responsibility is diffused and that information is not addressed to the people who need it.”
4. Malfunction in Information
Bad information is another malfunction.
“The last major time-waster is malfunction in information. The administrator of a large hospital is plagued for years by telephone calls from doctors asking him to find a bed for one of their patients who should be hospitalized.
The admissions people ‘knew’ that there was no empty bed. Yet the administrator almost invariably found a few. The admissions people simply were not informed immediately when a patient was discharged. The floor nurse knew, of course, and so did the people in the front office who presented the bill to the departing patient.
The admissions people, however, got a ‘bed count’ made every morning at 5:00 A.M. – while the great majority of patients were being sent home in midmorning after the doctors had made the rounds.
It did not take genius to put this right; all it needed was an extra carbon copy of the chit that goes from the floor nurse to the front office.”
Time-Wasting Management Defects Can Take Long, Patient Work to Correct
Some management defects can take a long time to correct.
“Time-wasting management defects such as overstaffing, malorganization, or malfunctioning information can sometimes be remedied fast.
At other times, it takes long, patient work to correct them. The results of such work are, however, great – and especially in terms of time gained.”
Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways:
- There’s 4 main signs of management deficiency: 1) lack of system foresight, 2) overstaffing, 3) mal-organization, and 4) malfunction in information.
- Meetings should never be allowed to be the main demand. Meetings should not be the main demand of a knowledge worker’s time. If the meetings are producing results that’s one thing. But if the purpose of each meeting becomes planning another meeting, you have a problem.
- If you’re spending too much time on interpersonal issues, it’s a sign of overstaffing. If you’re spending all your time on feuds and friction, and fighting over space, it’s a sign of overstaffing. Lean organizations stay focused on the results and either collaborate as a team, or at least don’t get in each other’s way (they’re too busy working on their own work.)
- If you keep running into the same crisis, it’s a lack of system foresight. Surprises happen, but if you keep running into the same surprises, then there’s a lack of system foresight. It means you don’t know the system you’re in and you don’t know how it works and you’re not anticipating events in the systems.
- If you don’t have accurate, relevant, timely information, then you’re flying blind. People can’t do their jobs effectively without the right information. Bad information wastes everybody’s time. If you don’t have accurate, relevant, timely business information, then you can’t make effective business decisions.
You’re part of the problem or part of the solution.