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.
Are your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenjzAcjdYJnIryCSdSner@ChacQubuVvjJJGZxYOhYoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Games for Meetings: II
- We spend a lot of time and emotional energy in meetings, much of it engaged in any of dozens of ritualized
games. Here's Part II of a little catalog of some of our favorites, and what we could do about them.
- Action Item Avoidance
- In some teams, members feel so overloaded that they try to avoid any additional tasks. Here are some
of the most popular patterns of action item avoidance.
- Deciding to Change: Choosing
- When organizations decide to change what they do, the change sometimes requires that they change how
they make decisions, too. That part of the change is sometimes overlooked, in part, because it affects
most the people who make decisions. What can we do about this?
- Wacky Words of Wisdom: V
- Adages, aphorisms, and "words of wisdom" are true often enough that we accept them as universal.
They aren't. Here's Part V of some widely held beliefs that mislead us at work.
- Heart with Mind
- We say people have "heart" when they continue to pursue a goal despite obstacles that would
discourage almost everyone. We say that people are stubborn when they continue to pursue a goal that
we regard as unachievable. What are our choices when achieving the goal is difficult?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming June 27: Interrupting Others in Meetings Safely: I
- In meetings we sometimes feel the need to interrupt others to offer a view or information, or to suggest adjusting the process. But such interruptions carry risk of offense. How can we interrupt others safely? Available here and by RSS on June 27.
- And on July 4: Interrupting Others in Meetings Safely: II
- When we feel the need to interrupt someone who's speaking in a meeting, to offer a view or information, we would do well to consider (and mitigate) the risk of giving offense. Here are some techniques for interrupting the speaker in situations not addressed by the meeting's formal process. Available here and by RSS on July 4.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrencAgDOGGdSxWZCmvdner@ChacMSTiddrzDUyyjcDAoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Race to the South Pole: The Power of Agile Development
- On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald
Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen
had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished.
As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. Lessons abound. Among the more important
lessons are those that demonstrate the power of the agile approach to project management and product
development. Read more about this program. Here's
a date for this program:
- Ohio National Insurance, 1 Financial Way, Blue Ash, OH: July
Monthly Meeting, Cincinnati
chapter of the International Institute of Business Analysis. Register now.
- Ohio National Insurance, 1 Financial Way, Blue Ash, OH: July 17, Monthly Meeting, Cincinnati chapter of the International Institute of Business Analysis. Register now.
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- 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.