The cost of virtual clutter is surprisingly high because most virtual clutter is outside our awareness, and because we don't track its costs. For example, switching between medical insurance plans is typically a complicated process that requires spending company time consulting with Human Resources. De-cluttering this process would reduce costs, but since we don't track those costs, we can only estimate the savings.
The savings from de-cluttering any one process is probably small, but in a typical enterprise, there are hundreds of cost sources traceable to virtual clutter. In Part I, we examined some enterprise-scale sources of virtual clutter. Let's now examine virtual clutter occurring at the team and group level.
- Meeting agendas
- Agenda clutter causes us to overrun meeting times, or to deal with important items superficially. Agenda clutter also causes cluttered attendee lists. To execute a cluttered agenda, we require attendance by some who have little to contribute to most of the agenda. Since we don't know the exact time when when we need these people, they mostly just sit and wait.
- That's why cluttered agendas lead to cluttered calendars, which make meetings difficult to schedule, creating delays in product development and elevating enterprise costs.
- Project portfolios
- Project portfolios tend to grow organically, rather than by design. Portfolio clutter, or incoherence, can manifest itself as resource contention, effort duplication, failure to exploit deliverables of other projects, failure to exploit lessons learned, and so on.
- Coherent The most prolific source of email inbox
clutter is likely that we send too many
messages to too many people who have
too little interest in their contentportfolios "make sense." They exploit commonality of both resources and technologies. They have themes that span both inputs and outputs of portfolio projects.
- Library clutter
- Some organizations still have libraries for employees to use in their work. In these libraries, book clutter (physical or electronic) consists of all those items few people have ever read or even referred to. Some items are so outdated that they're worthless. In most organizations, "User's Guide for Word 2.0" probably is an example of clutter. If anyone ever needs that information, they can get it from the Web.
- Eliminating library clutter requires some content expertise many librarians might lack. The populations served by libraries can help with de-cluttering.
- Email messages
- The most prolific source of email inbox clutter is likely that we send too many messages to too many people who have too little interest in their content. Some of the problem is cultural, some is due to the similarity of the commands "Reply" and "Reply All," and some is due to the difficulty of learning how to direct our email clients to filter and file messages automatically.
- Coordinated action is likely required. Organizations that train their people in the properly focused use of email can gain some control of the email torrent.
Noticing virtual clutter is difficult. It takes practice. When you find a piece of clutter, ask "How did it come to be here?" and "If I remove it, what can I do to prevent its return or replacement?" First in this series Top Next Issue
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About Point Lookout
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Getting Around Hawthorne
- The Hawthorne Effect appears when we measure employee attitudes or behavior — when people know
they're being measured, they modify their behavior. How can we measure attitudes with a minimum of distortion
from the Hawthorne Effect?
- Virtual Communications: I
- Participating in or managing a virtual team presents special communications challenges. Here are some
guidelines for communicating with members of virtual teams.
- What Makes a Good Question?
- In group discussion or group problem solving, many of us focus on being the first one to provide the
answer. The right answer can be good; but often, the right question can be better.
- Management Debt: II
- As with technical debt, we incur management debt when we make choices that carry with them recurring
costs. How can we quantify management debt?
- Indicators of Lock-In: I
- In group decision-making, lock-in occurs when the group persists in adhering to its chosen course even
though superior alternatives exist. Lock-in can be disastrous for problem-solving organizations. What
are some common indicators of lock-in?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 28: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: I
- Briefly, when people exhibit narcissistic behavior they're engaging in activity that systematically places their own interests and welfare ahead of the interests and welfare of anyone or anything else. It's behavior that threatens the welfare of the organization and everyone employed there. Available here and by RSS on February 28.
- And on March 7: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: II
- Narcissistic behavior at work threatens the enterprise. People who behave narcissistically systematically place their own interests and welfare ahead of anyone or anything else. In this Part II of the series we consider the narcissistic preoccupation with superiority fantasies. Available here and by RSS on March 7.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrensVGESLhhrLddrhhpner@ChacXKCOFVTPaxBbjvczoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power