I was recently in line for coffee and overheard the lady in front of me on her cell phone make the comment, ”I was in meetings all day yesterday, did not get anything done.” I am certain most of us have heard this before and felt it ourselves. This is further evidence of my continued assertion that the workplace today is one of the most inefficient operating system. If our computers or any technology worked the way we did, we literally would throw them out the window. So it seems quite paradoxical that our expectation of efficiency with technology is at an all-time high often complaining about one device being just seconds slower than another, yet we have enormous tolerance for wasting hours and days in traditional modes of doing business with each other in the workplace.
There are some valid reasons for this. You can measure technology. You know how long it takes to send a text (seconds) or how quickly an inventory management system can respond to a query and the like. It is harder to measure the quality of one meeting or conference call, or even of a day at work. It is easy to look at a laptop and know its microprocessor speed and memory. It is harder to look at yourself or an employee and gauge how much they are supposed to produce. Technologies do not have personalities or a history (positive or negative) whereas people do, making the latter infinitely more challenging to manage, and therefore to have any reasonable expectation.
It is my assertion that the issue of workplace inefficiency is the leadership elephant in the room. Leaders look at macro level outputs such as quarterly sales or monthly outputs, but often do not know how to manage below that often delegating that responsibility to individual supervisors, who are equally unaware or unwilling to deal with it. It would mean dealing with complex human behaviors that few are actually qualified for.
So what can be done? I’ll write more on this next week, but for starters, every leader should take inventory of both her day/week and those of her direct reports. Just as she would if she were logging her diet for the day or week, she should log how much time is spent doing what. This week, pick yourself and two other people on your team. Track your activities and inventory them at the end of the week. Almost immediately, you will find huge inefficiencies that with a little courage and creativity, you can double your output.