While common sense can fix most management issues, it’s usually used in hind sight. Dan Purkey, Management Consultant and Author of “Uncommon Sense Management,” says being overwhelmed by too much to do in too little time results in communication problems which are at the root of many, if not the vast majority of, management woes.
That overwhelmed feeling affects everyone, from front-line staff to CEOs. Important foundational activities are neglected as their strategic importance is lost in day to day ”firefighting.” When you’re too busy, there’s no time or energy to think, or act, strategically, much less communicate effectively. Decisions are made on the fly, based on assumptions and incorrect information. Consequences are almost always costly.
Take for example the Vice President of Operations who, when faced with the prospect of the premises being flooded, immediately reacted by ordering a portable flood barrier. The expensive device still rests, neatly folded, unable to be used outside the building.
What went wrong? Purkey cites a long litany of factors, all of which can be traced to a breakdown in communication.
With the correct due diligence (communication), the VP would’ve discovered that
- The flood warning report came from insurance companies selling flood insurance
- There had been no history of flooding in the immediate area
- The flood barrier required 12 hours for deployment whereas only 4 hours flood warning would be available
- It would be impossible to deploy the flood barrier, because they didn’t have the forklift necessary to position it or pumps to inflate it with water from the nearby river
- None of the staff responsible for deployment had any idea of how to set it up
In hindsight, it’s clear that decision was a costly mistake. But, before you judge that VP too harshly, ask yourself how many times you’ve been in a position where you’re making decisions based on skimpy or incorrect information? Have you never been embarrassed by an idea ”that seemed good at the time”?
Why are so many bad decisions made by good managers? The same reason that 70% of Americans hate their jobs, says Purkey. It all boils down to being too busy with non-strategic activities, resulting in communication breakdown, which in turn results in incorrect assumptions leading to ineffective decisions.
Purkey says one solution is to ”bubble sort” activities so that you can get a clear picture of what’s keeping you busy. Then it’s a matter assigning priorities and eliminating non-strategic activities thus simplifying your day-to-day agenda.
When you’re not locked into minutiae, you’ll find you have greater clarity and it’s easier to act strategically. You’ll be able to assess whether an activity or decision will move you toward the end goal, or distract you from it. It also puts you in a position to standardize work processes to create efficiencies, then develop metrics by which you can quickly rate the quality of process execution.
“It’s okay to take things off your plate,” says Purkey, “as long as you and your boss agree.”
Whether you’re the CEO or a mid-level manager, the success of this approach is determined by the management team being on the same page regarding priorities and end-goals. Once they’re aligned, managers are free to manage more effectively and devolve the philosophy down through the ranks to all levels of employees. When this happens, you have a team working in sync and achieving far more, in far less time than before.
About Dan Purkey:
Dan Purkey is founder, CEO, and President of The Open Door Group, LLC, a management consulting firm. He has over 30 years of broad-based business experience at executive level. After the break-up of the Bell System he headed the contract negotiation team among Fortune 50 telecom companies. Subsequently, he was responsible for the launch of the first competitive residential local telephone service in Utah. He led the market from zero to over $25M in annual revenue in the first three years, the best of any market nationally.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education (cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of Washington and an MBA with an emphasis in Managerial and Organizational Leadership (Presidential Honors) from City University in Seattle, WA. He has a Black Belt Lean Six Sigma certification. He has received recognition for his work performance and contributions to Diversity.
To learn more about how to implement his management strategies in your organization, you can find “Uncommon Sense Management” at Amazon:
Paperback version: http://goo.gl/GjRgCj
Kindle version: http://goo.gl/r2eGcK