Machines, especially engines, are designed with a maximum revolutions per minute. When they exceed that maximum, they can fail catastrophically by essentially flying apart. Organizations also have a ceiling controlling how much work they can do without harming workers. When their work involves manipulating physical goods, that ceiling is set by safety regulations or by limits imposed by Nature.
In knowledge-based organizations, the ceiling on rates of production isn't as obvious. It's real, but it's set by psychological factors. There are few regulations, if any, and no obvious safety limits. In knowledge-based organizations, overload is often uncontrolled.
It's up to us to control overload. Here are some haiku to contemplate when you find yourself so overloaded that you can no longer think. Read them slowly. Notice how you feel about each one. Notice which ones strike home, and which ones suggest new ways to regain your sense of well-being.
Another day starts. Email, voicemail, and meetings. Another day ends.
This has to get done. So does that and that and that. Not by noon it won't.
Hours so horrendous I eat dinner at my desk. This is not a life.
With great sacrifice, I finish my work. He does not, but nobody cares.
She has time for breaks, And I'm completely buried. How does this happen?
I can't do it all with quality I'm proud of. So what's good enough?
After a layoff, there are fewer people here, but just as much work.
You've got a problem. Please help me understand why your problem is mine.
Someone must do it. It always seems to be me. What if I said No?
Why don't I say No? I can say No — but I don't. Am I scared? What of?
Isn't saying "yes" to their excessive demands saying "no" to me?
I get too much mail. I cannot read all of it. Wait — I don't have to!
Taking the red eye, I return in time for work. Brain dead, but on time.
The nice thing about conflicting meetings is you only attend one.
I have too much work, but I've found a solution. I don't do it all.
This isn't my job. Why do I have to do it? Wait a sec — I don't.
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Organizational Firefighting
- Sometimes companies or projects get into trouble, and "fires" erupt one after another. When
this happens, we say we're in "firefighting" mode. But it's more than a metaphor — we
have a lot to learn from wildland firefighters.
- Encourage Truth Telling
- Getting to the truth can be a difficult task for managers. People sometimes withhold, spin, or slant
reports, especially when the implications are uncomfortable or threatening. A culture that supports
truth telling can be an organization's most valuable asset.
- Ten Reasons Why You Don't Always Get What You Measure: II
- Although many believe that "You get what you measure," metrics-based management systems sometimes
produce disappointing results. In this Part II, we look at the effects of employee behavior.
- Tactics for Asking for Volunteers: I
- CEOs, board chairs, department heads and team leads of all kinds sometimes seek people to handle specific,
time-limited tasks. Asking the group for volunteers works fine — usually. There are alternatives.
- TINOs: Teams in Name Only
- Perhaps the most significant difference between face-to-face teams and virtual or distributed teams
is their potential to develop from workgroups into true teams — an area in which virtual or distributed
teams are at a decided disadvantage. Often, virtual and distributed teams are teams in name only.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming August 23: Look Where You Aren't Looking
- Being blindsided by an adverse event could indicate the event's sudden, unexpected development. It can also indicate a failure to anticipate what could have been reasonably anticipated. How can we improve our ability to prepare for adverse events? Available here and by RSS on August 23.
- And on August 30: They Just Don't Understand
- When we cannot resolve an issue in open debate, we sometimes try to explain the obstinacy of others. The explanations we favor can tell us more about ourselves than they do about others. Available here and by RSS on August 30.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenjrssaukDpSoEktvNner@ChacISTmSBugxudfWiAIoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
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- The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
- On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald
Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen
had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished.
As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business
analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read
more about this program. Here are some dates for this program:
- The Westin Virginia Beach Town Center, 4535 Commerce Street,
Virginia Beach, VA 23462: September 13,
Monthly Meeting, Hampton Roads Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- CTCPA, 716 Brook Street,
Rocky Hill, CT 06067: September 20,
Full-day Workshop, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Westin Virginia Beach Town Center, 4535 Commerce Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23462: September 13, Monthly Meeting, Hampton Roads Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- Creating High Performance Virtual Teams
- Many people experience virtual teams as awkward, slow, and sometimes
frustrating. Even when most team members hail from the same nation or culture, and even when they all
speak the same language, geographic dispersion or the presence of employees from multiple enterprises
is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage,
and support virtual teams in ways that are too much like the way we lead, manage, and support co-located
teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and
supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance.
Read more about this program. Here's a date for this
- Baci Grill, 134 Berlin
Road, Berlin, CT 06416: September 19,
Monthly Meeting, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- Baci Grill, 134 Berlin Road, Berlin, CT 06416: September 19, Monthly Meeting, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.