We live in a world and a business climate that demand more and faster change from each of us. Keep up with technology, social media, competitive threats, changes in customer wants/needs. Do more. Do more. Do more. Well, there is a limit, and if you go beyond it, it can be crippling.
I once was doing a strategic plan with a city government in which the city manager and the council were battling over what was a doable agenda. The city manager chose our planning process so that once and for all, the council would decide on an agenda and have the discipline to stick to it without adding new items throughout the year. It was apparent that the staff were burnt out from the previous years’ workload. When we took this data to the council and recommended to them a doable agenda for changes in the next year, some on the council responded with, “Well, how do we know we are getting all we can from you and your staff? How do we know we have hit the limit?”. At that point, the city manager broke down in tears and left the room. I weighed in, “That’s how you know!”.
When the pace of change being demanded of a group or individual gets too great, several problems can arise.
- Changes are not executed well. Thus, instead of solving problems or improving services/products, they actually get worse
- Individuals or groups go into paralysis as they are unable to handle more
Leaders and governing boards have a responsibility to get all they can from their resources but they also have a responsibility to assure that individuals and groups don’t blow up because they are being pushed too hard. It is hard to find the tipping point here.
Some of the signs of overload are the following:
- Changes suddenly aren’t being executed well.
- Individuals are ill more often than in the past.
- Turnover increases.
- Individuals become ill tempered.
Toyota has a wonderful expression for how they manage this, “we don’t go fast, but we don’t go back”.
As always, I’m interested in your questions and thoughts on the above, please send me an e-mail. And if you are interested in reading more on managing change, read our library article, The Keys to Implementing Change.