The simple phrase, The Hurrier I Go the Behinder I Get, was displayed on a plaque in my home when I was growing up. For the longest time I just couldn’t make sense of it. Decades later the phrase has become abundantly clear, repeatedly demonstrated, and consistently true.
When we take on assignments, tasks, roles, and responsibilities they all come with a list of things to do. Depending on the level of complexity they include duration, cost, impact, etc. We then make decisions/determinations about the prioritization of activities and commence execution. Sure, this sounds like a very smooth process; my experience in real-life business has been quite a bit different.
The “do more with less” mandate so many have been working under for so long is wearing thin. Despite reports from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics regarding increases in productivity levels, it appears that the increase could be coming from a shrunken workforce. For many companies, the workforce had to shrink due to losses associated with the downturn in the economy. This did not always translate comfortably to an overall reduction in workload. With the economy recovering (so they say) in some cases, it is becoming painfully clear that this existing workforce is often stretched beyond capacity. We appear in some cases to be in the “dark place” between downturn and comeback. Folks functioning in this chasm could well be reaching their breaking point.
If quality is the outcome we are after, hurry has no place in the plan.
This brings me back to my first point regarding orderly decision-making. This area is often put at serious risk when the workforce has been operating at maximum capacity for a period that is potentially greater than endurance levels allow.
This “maxed out” workforce, must hurry to meet the deadlines and demands of the enterprise. When one must hurry to get things done, how good can we expect the outcome to be? Regardless of one’s skill as a “multi-tasker,” if quality is the outcome we are after, hurry has no place in the plan (if you even have time to plan).
Organizing and prioritizing activities and making good decisions about tasks to support those activities cannot be considered a luxury or an indulgence. It must be considered a requirement. Taking the time to think about ways to improve an area causing customer dissatisfaction or a business that dissatisfies its leaders is not compatible with those that are hell bent on being the immediate “doer” or “fixer.” The shame of it all is that time is rarely taken to determine if the conundrum under scrutiny was actually caused by moving too quickly in the first place – hurrying to provide a report or take some action – without due diligence around risk and unintended consequences such as damage to the brand, the workforce, or the Customer Experience.
Ego often prevents us from thinking badly about decisions made on our watch.
Recently I came across a company that was evaluating new technology to enhance or replace its telecom infrastructure. It was proceeding quite methodically until a person of influence decided to dictate the decision based on his own choice. One of the many challenging things about watching this play out was that this leader’s actual depth of knowledge was by no means sufficient to derail an analysis or make the best/right decision. But alas, his position was! So, he bragged that he made this thing happen so much faster. “Look at me, I’m such a genius,” “Without me, the team would still be talking about it.” It is as if talking about it were a bad thing. UGH!
This leader stuck the company with insufficient and more expensive tools that resulted in a “cobbled together” solution. It is one that all involved will steadfastly defend until the blowback occurs in a couple of years. Often, this type of leader moves on to terrorize some other poor unsuspecting firm with his/her brand of “genius.” They truly believe that anything that goes wrong or fails will fall once again to the incompetents left behind as they “hurry” away.
Trust me, failure will come and cost will come. Reality may set in that perhaps having trusted this person was a colossal error. Sadly, ego often prevents us from thinking badly about decisions made on our watch, even if someone else hijacked our role as decision maker.
This was a rather grand example of moving faster rather than moving smartly. Now think about the hiring process and how often a department is in “freak out” mode when identifying the need for new positions. The faster the process, the more likely the wrong person makes it onto your payroll. Hence, the “behinder” you get because wrong hires suck the life out of organizations. And just for the record, they don’t generally quit. They stick around because their options are so limited. It is the good people that quit because they get abused with an untenable workload.
Taking a few extra hours to ask questions, anticipate consequences, and play the “what if” game pays off in spades.
Another maxim for this ‘hurried” condition is Haste Makes Waste and I am sure there are many more. You must evaluate your process for allocating time to evaluate workload, call load, and loads on all channels; to assess impact on the Customer Experience; and to make a solid and compelling case to senior management. Many managers allow decisions made in a hurry to be put into practice, for example: “Oh, it is a quality problem … do more observations.” “Oh, there’s too much tardiness … make the consequence more severe.” “Not at your desk? … let’s buy one of those good ole tracking by the second machines and watch ‘em closely all day!”
While many “solutions” to issues carry some merit, without serious causal analysis we are just acting in a hurry! The consequences may result in a dip in morale that causes serious quality, attendance, turnover, communication, and trust problems. And the “behinder” you become.
I don’t believe in beating an option to death via analysis. However, taking a few extra hours to ask questions, anticipate consequences, and play the “what if” game pays off in spades. I am not advising you to involve everyone in the building that may have an opinion. Once you get in the flow of slowing down and thinking, it happens without a ton of additional conscious thought (kind of like eating right!). It is a lifestyle change more than anything else.
Oh, and speaking of being in “hurry” mode, resist the urge to be one of those people that is “too busy to even take a vacation.” Think about this from the Cleveland Clinic: “A nine-year study from the State University of New York at Oswego found that vacationing every year reduced the overall risk of death by about 20 percent, and the risk of death from heart disease by as much as 30 percent.” I have found no evidence that taking time off has any negative impact. This means NOT working on vacation too. Be sure to encourage yourself and your teams to take time off.
So, everybody … carry on, move forward, but don’t hurry!