In our two previous blogs, we looked at the costs and root cause of organizational overload. Here we clarify what you can do to build the foundation for reducing overload in your organization and increasing people’s ability to sustain energy and focus on their top priorities.

The key to decreasing organizational overload is to shift from a “Can-Do” culture which emphasizes the importance of effort to a “Results and Renewal” culture which focuses on outcomes achieved through sustainable effort. The underlying beliefs of a “Results and Renewal” culture as contrasted with a “Can-Do” culture include:

 

“Can-Do”

 “Results and Renewal”

Being a good team player means always saying yes

Being a good team player means making and keeping agreements

Since performance is based on effort, everyone must continuously be “on call”

Contributions are measured by results on key strategic initiatives – not constant availability

People do their best work under pressure

People do their best work when they can sustain energy and focus over time

We can always “pull the rabbit out of the hat”

Pulling the rabbit out of the hat means we have to plan more carefully going forward

Failure is never acceptable

Failure is an opportunity to learn

To shift to a “Results and Renewal” culture begin by identifying a senior executive or key opinion leader who recognizes that the costs of trying to achieve greater results with fewer resources is leading to worse not better performance. The champion may be a hard-driving CEO who is not getting the results he wants, a visionary leader who recognizes that the rest of her organization cannot keep up with her new ideas, or senior executives concerned about not having enough time to drive their organization’s most strategic work.

Then:

1)    Build a foundation for change by making the business case for a new way of working and engaging a leadership coalition to catalyze change. For example, the visionary leader of an innovative high school we worked with noticed that his direct reports were dropping too many balls, feeling frustrated with their own and each other’s lack of follow through, failing to update outmoded systems and processes, and thinking of leaving the organization despite its excellent reputation. Through interviews he discovered that his own charisma and prolific creativity contributed to the chaos, and he engaged the senior management team to establish and practice a new and more reliable way of making agreements and executing.

2)
Understand why you are not getting the results you want by determining how your organization inadvertently creates its own overload. In another case, the senior management of one small investment bank was concerned about the time spent redoing their staff’s poor quality work because it took important time away from new business development. The team learned from working with us that the source of their problem was ironically their own strong commitment to customer responsiveness, which meant they frequently asked staff to drop what they were doing in favor of new, more urgent, and often ambiguous tasks.  This in turn led to poor quality work by their staff.

Once you have built the case for reducing overload, you will be able to make an explicit choice about changing the way you work and take steps to bridge the gap.