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:
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tempers can flare on both sides. But if we keep in mind two ideas, we can reduce the effects of message
- Most of us follow paths through our careers, or through life. We get nervous when we're off the path.
We feel better when we're doing what everyone else is doing. But is that sensible?
- The True Costs of Indirectness
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It can be an expensive practice.
- The Limits of Status Reports: I
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- Just Make It Happen
- Many idolize the no-nonsense manager who says, "I don't want to hear excuses, just make it happen."
We associate that stance with strong leadership. Sometimes, though, it's little more than abuse motivated
by ambition or ignorance — or both.
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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.