Efficient organizations achieve their goals using minimal resources. Inefficient ones keep workers spinning their wheels on useless tasks.
Unfortunately, inefficient habits can become ingrained within a company, frustrating employees and erecting barriers to productivity. Do any of these common efficiency killers sound familiar to you?
Yes, we mean email. On average, employees spend 37 percent of their work week answering and organizing email. That’s a big chunk of time devoted to impersonal, inefficient communication—surely we can do better.
For starters, email doesn’t work well as a collaborative platform. Send an email loaded with CCs, and a few “reply alls” later you’ll find the original purpose has been completely obfuscated as the conversation veers off track.
Add the likelihood of information getting lost and people misreading an email’s intent—causing misunderstandings that demand more time to iron out—and it’s easy to see why managing email dependency has become a top priority for many innovative companies.
Situationally, email is an incredible tool. But when it becomes the main form of communication in your workplace, you have a problem.
If your answer to the email problem is to encourage face-to-face interaction by scheduling more meetings, you’re on the wrong track.
Employees spend an average of 5.6 hours each week in meetings, and most spend up to four additional hours a week preparing for them. In fact, a Microsoft study found that the average worker spends only 1.5 hours a day actually working. The rest of the time is wasted—and guess which unproductive activity tops the list?
That’s right: Nearly half of employees say meetings are their biggest waste of time at the office. According to former Ernst & Young executive Al Pittampalli, author of Read This Before Our Next Meeting, most meetings are not about collaboration but rather “bureaucratic excuse-making and the kabuki dance of company politics.”
Or, as economist John Kenneth Galbraith put it, “Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.” ( « Tweet This )
Ah, the P-word. Process is another prime example of an efficiency tool gone wrong.
At their best, processes provide a way to measure progress and keep business running smoothly. But as companies grow in size and complexity, their processes can become mountain-size burdens that stand squarely in the way of work getting done.
In the past 15 years, the number of “procedures, vertical layers, interface structures, coordination bodies and decision approvals” required within U.S. and European companies has increased by between 50 and 350 percent, according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group. As a result, managers spend at least 40 percent of their time just jumping through procedural hoops.
Every company needs standards for best practices against which employees can measure themselves. But effective standards reduce the need for hoop-jumping and approvals—not increase it.
Great companies have a clear vision and focused goals. Great leaders communicate that vision and look to their employees for solutions that meet those goals.
When a company’s vision is unclear or unclearly communicated, employees have no greater purpose to rally around. They may become fuzzy on what their role is, both individually and as a team, and waste time shooting arrows in the dark instead of moving toward a common goal. Job satisfaction sags, and morale drops—and with it, productivity.
In fact, one study found that, when aligned with a strategic plan, organizations with clearly defined vision and mission statements financially outperform those without them.
Yet many companies struggle to articulate their vision. In a survey of more than a million leaders, authors James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner found that one of the biggest challenges leaders face is “communicating an image of the future that draws others in—that speaks to what others see and feel.” They also identified that ability as the defining trait that distinguishes leaders from non-leaders.
From leadership to communication, organizations can develop bad habits just as easily as people. Awareness is the first step toward rooting them out for good.