Since so much organizational effort is irrelevant to the goals espoused by the organization, exploring the mechanisms that generate useless work is a worthy endeavor. In this Part II of our exploration, we focus on examples of deck-chair-rearranging that extend the durations of tasks and projects, sometimes indefinitely. See Part I for a discussion of obvious waste.
- We hoard equipment, space, budget, people, and supplies. Hoarded equipment and supplies might actually be usable, but often they're useless junk. Analogously, we retain people who've demonstrated an inability to perform, or space we can't use. We even hoard time, by not reporting work we've completed. Later, we claim that the finished work is incomplete, and then we use for something else the resources granted to complete that already-completed work.
- Hoarding might arise from worry associated with feelings of being overwhelmed by the many issues and problems remaining unresolved due to the focus on deflective activities, priority inversions, agenda cluttering, and the considerable effort spent to conceal the hoarding. In this way, hoarding might serve as misdirected risk management, but it always slows progress.
- In personal lives, perfectionism is the belief that perfection is both attainable and mandatory. Perfectionism often manifests itself
as continued work on tasks beyond
the point where additional effort
creates significant additional valueAnything not done perfectly is unacceptable. At work, perfectionism often manifests itself as continued work on tasks beyond the point where additional effort creates significant, if any, additional value. It is this irrelevance to the organizational mission that qualifies perfectionism as deck-chair behavior.
- Perfectionism can be a personal pattern, but at work, it can also arise from fear of what lies in store if the current effort is declared complete. In these cases, perfectionism can be seen as the hoarding of tasks. Perfectionism in managers often makes them extremely demanding, which accounts for subordinates sometimes experiencing perfectionism as micromanagement. Perfectionism often causes us to reject perfectly workable solutions. Expensive delays and unnecessary rework inevitably follow.
- Scope creep
- Scope creep is usually seen as a problem in itself, and sometimes it is. But it can at times be merely a symptom of deeper dysfunction. For instance, as part of the deck-chair-rearrangement pattern, we can interpret scope creep as a means of delaying task completion, to allay the fear of what might lie in store if the current effort is declared complete. Alternatively, scope creep can be a means of hoarding work, and therefore budget or schedule.
- In essence, scope creep might be a symptom of dysfunction rather than, or in addition to, being a source of dysfunction. Dealing with scope creep as an independent problem to be solved might not be effective if it has causes that lie elsewhere.
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!
For more about scope creep, see "Ground Level Sources of Scope Creep," Point Lookout for July 18, 2012; "The Perils of Political Praise," Point Lookout for May 19, 2010; "More Indicators of Scopemonging," Point Lookout for August 29, 2007; "Scopemonging: When Scope Creep Is Intentional," Point Lookout for August 22, 2007; "Some Causes of Scope Creep," Point Lookout for September 4, 2002; and "The Deck Chairs of the Titanic: Strategy," Point Lookout for June 29, 2011.
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 12: Downscoping Under Pressure: II
- We sometimes "downscope" projects to bring them back on budget and schedule when they're headed for overruns. Downscoping doesn't always work. Cognitive biases like the sunk cost effect and confirmation bias can distort decisions about how to downscope. Available here and by RSS on October 12.
- And on October 19: Bullying by Proxy: I
- The form of workplace bullying perhaps most often observed involves a bully and a target. Other forms are less obvious. One of these, bullying by proxy, is especially difficult to control, because it so easily evades most anti-bullying policies. Available here and by RSS on October 19.
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