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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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming September 25: Planning Disappointments
- When we plan projects, we make estimates of total costs and expected delivery dates. Often these estimates are so wrong — in the wrong direction — that we might as well be planning disappointments. Why is this? Available here and by RSS on September 25.
- And on October 2: Start Anywhere
- Group problem-solving sessions sometimes focus on where to begin, even when what we know about the problem is insufficient for making such decisions. In some cases, preliminary exploration of almost any aspect of the problem can be more helpful than debating what to explore. Available here and by RSS on October 2.
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- The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership
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. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in leadership and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at leadership from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program.
Here's a date for this program:
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio
44017: November 7,
Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute.
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017: November 7, Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
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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.