The cost of virtual clutter is surprisingly high because most virtual clutter is outside our awareness, and because we don't track its costs. For example, switching between medical insurance plans is typically a complicated process that requires spending company time consulting with Human Resources. De-cluttering this process would reduce costs, but since we don't track those costs, we can only estimate the savings.
The savings from de-cluttering any one process is probably small, but in a typical enterprise, there are hundreds of cost sources traceable to virtual clutter. In Part I, we examined some enterprise-scale sources of virtual clutter. Let's now examine virtual clutter occurring at the team and group level.
- Meeting agendas
- Agenda clutter causes us to overrun meeting times, or to deal with important items superficially. Agenda clutter also causes cluttered attendee lists. To execute a cluttered agenda, we require attendance by some who have little to contribute to most of the agenda. Since we don't know the exact time when when we need these people, they mostly just sit and wait.
- That's why cluttered agendas lead to cluttered calendars, which make meetings difficult to schedule, creating delays in product development and elevating enterprise costs.
- Project portfolios
- Project portfolios tend to grow organically, rather than by design. Portfolio clutter, or incoherence, can manifest itself as resource contention, effort duplication, failure to exploit deliverables of other projects, failure to exploit lessons learned, and so on.
- Coherent The most prolific source of email inbox
clutter is likely that we send too many
messages to too many people who have
too little interest in their contentportfolios "make sense." They exploit commonality of both resources and technologies. They have themes that span both inputs and outputs of portfolio projects.
- Library clutter
- Some organizations still have libraries for employees to use in their work. In these libraries, book clutter (physical or electronic) consists of all those items few people have ever read or even referred to. Some items are so outdated that they're worthless. In most organizations, "User's Guide for Word 2.0" probably is an example of clutter. If anyone ever needs that information, they can get it from the Web.
- Eliminating library clutter requires some content expertise many librarians might lack. The populations served by libraries can help with de-cluttering.
- Email messages
- The most prolific source of email inbox clutter is likely that we send too many messages to too many people who have too little interest in their content. Some of the problem is cultural, some is due to the similarity of the commands "Reply" and "Reply All," and some is due to the difficulty of learning how to direct our email clients to filter and file messages automatically.
- Coordinated action is likely required. Organizations that train their people in the properly focused use of email can gain some control of the email torrent.
Noticing virtual clutter is difficult. It takes practice. When you find a piece of clutter, ask "How did it come to be here?" and "If I remove it, what can I do to prevent its return or replacement?" First in this series Top Next Issue
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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some kind of power over you. What do they look for? What are the key elements of an effective pitch?
What does it take to Persuade Power?
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is their potential to develop from workgroups into true teams — an area in which virtual or distributed
teams are at a decided disadvantage. Often, virtual and distributed teams are teams in name only.
- Holding Back: I
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problems can arise, along with frustration and destructive intra-group conflict. What causes this behavior?
- Virtual Interviews: II
- The pandemic has made face-to-face job interviews less important. And so we must now also master virtual
interviews, and that requires understanding the effects of the attendance list, video presence, and
the technologies of staging, lighting, and makeup.
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Critical Thinking at Work for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming June 7: Toxic Disrupters: Tactics
- Some people tend to disrupt meetings. Their motives vary, but they use techniques drawn from a limited collection. Examples: they violate norms, demand attention, mess with the agenda, and sow distrust. Response begins with recognizing their tactics. Available here and by RSS on June 7.
- And on June 14: Pseudo-Collaborations
- Most workplace collaborations produce results of value. But some collaborations — pseudo-collaborations — are inherently incapable of producing value, due to performance management systems, or lack of authority, or lack of access to information. Available here and by RSS on June 14.
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