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July 15, 2009
King's Corner

Shut Up and Deliver

Harsh words, perhaps. But seriously. Enough is enough. The American economy is struggling mightily. Unemployment is soaring, which means a greater tax burden is being placed on those who are working. Companies are cutting costs, trying to do more with less. Yet the most troubling factor of all, is that many people who have jobs who have the capacity and who have the intelligence and ability are still not delivering.

What gives? I’m not sure if a Management Consulting firm blog is the right forum for this sort of rant, but it’s in my role as a Management Consultant from which most of these insights come. But here goes.

I’ll sum it up with two key words. Barriers and Laziness. First, let me attack laziness. Now that the workplace has become increasingly “virtual”, managers can no longer rely on simply what they see (i.e. someone very busy) or what they hear (i.e. problem-solving conversations) to gauge someone’s productivity. With the new standards of Instant Messaging, Work From Home, etc., it is a different type of management that is necessary. One that includes deliverable reviews, checkpoint meetings, etc. to track progress and productivity. A few facts are clear. With all the new technology, people are able to get done in 20 hours what they used to do in 40. Great. That’s what the technology promised us. What nobody mentioned was that the other 20 hours should be used to deliver MORE. Instead, I have witnessed all too many cases where resources “check out” literally. 90 minute lunches. Leaving early 2 hours early. Surfing the web until the next assignment comes their way. It’s a shame. And when management doesn’t have the time or interest to watch for that and take corrective action, it’s a greater shame. And worse, when management is the resource who “checked out”, it’s the greatest shame. And I see it time and time again.

To my next key word, barriers. It’s not quite as blatantly unethical or negligent as laziness. However, it can be equally disruptive, if not worse. Over the course of the last few years, I have seen an increasing trend of barriers under the guise of “devil’s advocacy”. One wonderful thing that has happened to control mistakes and minimize rework in the consulting/information technology industry is methodology. However, have we gone too far? If we can’t start Phase 1 of a project until we have the requirements documented and understood for Phase 9 of Year 4, we have a major problem. I used to reward employees who could take objectives and turn them into tasks, take concepts and turn them into reality. Now it seems, people are rewarded for “devil’s advocacy” to ask questions about Year 4 when we don’t need to answer the question until Year 3. I know I know. Begin with the end in mind. Know your future state. Yes, I agree. I preach it. I get it. However, there is a time to roll up the sleeves and deliver. When you understand the objective, you have a feel for the end in mind, you agree upon the starting point, DELIVER!!!! Plan the work, and then work the plan. Will things change after you begin? Sure, they always do. But enough with the sitting on hands until the crystal ball reveals all.

This attack on laziness and barriers is business, economics, politics and ethics all rolled into one. Help yourself by taking on more, learning new things and delivering more and therefore become better at what you do. Help your company by helping it be more productive, more cost-efficient, i.e. let them get more for the dollars they spend on you. Help your country by making your company better at servicing its clients, whoever they may be. Your company’s clients benefit through better products, ease of use, etc. which will allow them to be more successful. And successful companies help the economy, and a healthy economy helps our country. Some people talk about trickle-down economics. I call this trickle-up economics. If everyone maximizes their productivity, we all benefit.

Oh, and one more thing. Forward this on. If you are not one of the lazy and you are not a barrier-builder, you won’t be offended by what’s in here. If you are offended, perhaps there’s a reason.

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