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:
- When Your Boss Is a Micromanager
- If your boss is a micromanager, your life can be a seemingly endless misery of humiliation and frustration.
Changing your boss is one possible solution, but it's unlikely to succeed. What you can do
is change the way you experience the micromanagement.
- How We Avoid Making Decisions
- When an important item remains on our To-Do list for a long time, it's possible that we've found ways
to avoid facing it. Some of the ways we do this are so clever that we may be unaware of them. Here's
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- How to Foresee the Foreseeable: Preferences
- When people collaborate on complex projects, the most desirable work tends to go to those with highest
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In both cases, preferences rule. Preferences can lead us astray.
- Symbolic Self-Completion and Projects
- The theory of symbolic self-completion holds that to define themselves, humans sometimes assert indicators
of achievement that either they do not have, or that do not mean what they seem to mean. This behavior
has consequences for managing project-oriented organizations.
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.
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- 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.
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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.