Sunday, 01 April 2012 00:00

Managers' Inability to Tie Shoes and Their Resistance to Change

Rate this item
(0 votes)

Inefficiency test

Why would anyone need to teach a group of managers how to tie their shoes? It seems improbable anyone could make it to this point in his or her career lacking this simple skill. However, I feel quite confident that a vast majority of project managers, managers, leaders, and probably you, are improperly lashing your laces. This prognostication will go one step further stating that even after proving a better method, they, and you, will be unwilling to put forth the effort to change. Adopting change, beyond just tying your shoes, is at the root of our inability to improve many of our business processes. Furthermore, studying this behavior and the subsequent difficulty of maintaining a new and better method will help us understand the high recidivism rate.

The Inefficiency Of Multitasking

Untied Shoes How we tie our shoes rarely affects our work performance. Therefore, let us look at a work pattern that most realize is inherently inefficient, yet continue to follow—multitasking. Reflect on any of the specialty project methodologies, such as Agile and Critical Chain. They have many common traits, but the most obvious is dedicating people to tasks. Intuitively you know that if you want something done quickly and with the least number of errors, dedicate the person doing the task to the work. However, our days are interrupt-driven. Everyone feels their project is most important and that we need to stop what we are doing to provide a slice of time to assist them. The result is that nothing completes on time.

Look at this simple example. Think about three tasks. Each is two weeks long and they all have the same due date. In order for your boss to make everyone feel good, you are instructed to multitask and work on these tasks in one-week time slices. On the first week you flow through half of the first task, the second week they schlog through half of the second task, and on the third week they lunge through the last. By the end of three weeks, all are half complete. Now you can complete each task in the subsequent three weeks. The result is that the first task two weeks late, the second three weeks late, and last four weeks late.

Now consider dedicating your time to each of the three tasks—completing one before you start the other. In this situation, the first task completes on time. The second task is finishes two weeks late; the third is four weeks late. The first and second tasks actually complete earlier than in the multitasking example and the third at exactly the same time. Over all, the tasks are completed earlier. The only sponsor upset is the one needing task three completed. They are, however, no worse off than when multitasking.

Task Switching

 

If this has left you unconvinced, consider the inefficiencies of task switching. Most of us know it is a problem; however, we struggle to express it in quantitative terms. To help, try this example.

Time how long it takes you to write down the word "inefficient" followed by the numbers one through eleven. If you want, use the template to the left. Now, in a second pass, repeat the exercise by multitasking. Write an "i" and below it a "1," then "n" followed by the "2", etc. until both rows are filled. In nearly every situation, the multitasked process tasks twice as long as the dedicated writing process.

Armed with this data, convincing your peers of the evils of multitasking should be easy. You can be the evangelist for dedicating resources, increasing your company's performance, and enhancing employees' moral. It is not that easy, however. Change is difficult and even if people are convinced that the change is good, they quickly revert to their old ways. As convinced as we are that multitasking wastes time, and regardless of how hard we strive to remove it, people will continue to jerk around priorities requiring slicing our time between different tasks. There is no way to fight the will of the group. The excuses will pour in. "But, the boss...", "she is the only one who can...", and "If we do not get this done right now..." ring around the building as people forget their lesson and regress.

Still Not Tying Your Shoes Properly

The group, however, is not the problem. It is our own comfort. To illustrate, let us return to the opening premise—your improper procedure for tying shoes. In 2005, Terry Moore gave a TED presentation (view at left) that illustrates that a large majority of us only believe we know how to tie shoes. I trust TED, but was quite skeptical of this accusation. Therefore, I carefully tested the hypothesis for four weeks. For the first two weeks, I tied left laces the way I have for years and the right shoe per Mr. Moore's instructions. Then I switched sides. Alas, he was right. Daily my wife would ask me if I tied my shoes right. She was amazed at the difference. You might think the test would eliminate the double knots and the untied shoes. Alas, today both shoes came untied. In my haste to leave the house, I reverted to my old ways. No "organization" to blame, just me.

Can You Maintain Change?

I have challenged many to make the shoe-tying switch. After a month, I get excuses on why it is impossible to maintain the new way. The most common: "When I double-tie my shoes that way they look funny" and "They still come untied when I step on the laces." We are comfortable in our messy, miserable, and misfit methods so we look for reasons to maintain our old, comfortable, and deficient ways. I challenge you to try tying your laces correctly. Set an example for your peers, your bosses, your company, show them you can change! And, show them that reversion is normal and that it takes the support of a team to go up against the norm.

Come back in two weeks and tell us how you have done with those shoes, too.

Read 9004 times

Related items

  • Process Mapping

    Process is at the core of any business. It makes work predictable, repeatable, and transferable. Without it we cannot scale our businesses. However, process can be a bane to making progress. Processes that work for a $10 million company have difficulties supporting a $30 million company. Trying to scale them to a $300 million company will not only fail but not address the issues that larger companies have that were never dreamt of in a smaller organization. Processes need to be discarded, revamped, and built—all of that without creating an overburdening bureaucracy.

    Anytime you need to go someplace, you first have to know where you are. Processes are never static and your company's current state is probably far from where you think it is. Hence, the first step is mapping out you company's current state followed by defining the future state. This is more than a logical map of the process; it must also include physical maps. Whether your process is solely to provide a service (say, website development) or physical (say, manufacturing) there are logistical issues that complicate the process flow. Without fully understanding those nuances, future state processes will not reach the desired efficiencies.

    For more information about process mapping fill out the form to the left and we will get in touch with you.

  • Success vs Culture

    The other day a Latvian student contacted me for my views the connection between culture and success criteria—an important and intriguing topic. After working in Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Israel, United States, and Canada, I wear many scars of both blatant and subtle cultural violations. I also know that within a culture one person's success is often another person's failure. So, after dispelling concerns about clicking on some random email link, I completed her survey (please feel free to take it yourself). In the process, I struck up a friendship with the student, Kristine Briežkalne, who is studying at Riga International School of Economics and Business Administration . She has some interesting views and presented me with a Venn diagram showing four frames to a project (business, client, project management, and growth perspectives) and how they intersected. As the diagram is part of her Master's thesis, I will let you ponder the how to label the overlapping areas (an eye-opening exercise).

  • Kill The White Knight

    There is a reason we do not teach classes on fixing failing projects. Many a cynic feels that we simply do not want to teach our trade, however, our reason is far nobler—we should be teaching prevention rather trying to create white knights to save the day. It is the same philosophy as building a fence at the cliff's edge rather than an emergency room at its base. Our language is replete with idioms telling us to look past the symptom and address problems at their root cause. 'An ounce of prevention versus a pound of cure' or 'a stitch in time saves nine.' Please, feel free to supply your own in the comments. Unfortunately, most of our businesses loathe this philosophy, waiting to address an issue until it is irrefutably broken.

  • Comparing Organizational Change Management Models

    A few weeks ago, I set out to write a post on the comparison of various organizational change management (OCM) methodologies and realized that would be a disservice to my readers. It would simply drag you down the path of implementation while failing to focus you on building the foundation. The pressure was too much and I have relented to numerous requests on making that comparison. The caveat is that juxtaposing these models is not comparing different varieties of oranges or even apples and oranges; we are surely comparing the peel to the fruit they contain. Hence, comparing methodologies like Kotter's model (the peel), Prosci's ADKAR (the core), and General Electric's Change Acceleration Process (the whole fruit) need a different approach.

  • The Catch-22 of Organizational Change Management

    "Kotter, ADKAR, or CAP which methodology should we be using to build our approach to improving project adoption?" I hear this question repeatedly from people trying to implement an organizational change management (OCM) program. The problem is that is the wrong question. Take a perfunctory peek at any of the models and you will see that in the quest for an answer people have mistakenly jumped over the first few steps and they head down the road of failure. It is a Catch-22; unless you already have an OCM process in place, you will most likely fail at implementing it. Putting one in place, however, is a change—one of the most difficult cultural transformations your company will undertake. As a result, people jump to the solution stage, which is well down the change management process path (which, they did not know, ironically, since there was no procedure in place).

Leave a comment

More Info on Project Recovery

Tell me More!

Please send me more information
on fixing a failing project.

Rescue The Problem Project

Internationally acclaimed

Image of RPP

For a signed and personalized copy in the US visit the our eCommerce website.

Amazon logo
Buy it in the United States Buy it in Canada Buy it in the United Kingdom
Buy it in Ireland Buy it in Germany Buy it in France
Buy it in Italy Buy it in the PRC
Buy it in Japan
Book sellers worldwide.

Upcoming Events

Other's References

Sitemap