Flowing organization or personal efficiency

White Pelicans in synchronized feedingAs many of you know, I am always looking for better ways to do my own work - personal knowledge management or just plain old being smart about how I work.  But why is that?  Why do I think it is so important that my own work moves so smoothly?

I suspect I have a hidden assumption in my interests: if I am efficient, then the interactions I have with others will be efficient.  And if those are efficient, then we will get more done and (eventually) make more money.  I suspect there are a few "long arrows" in that logic tree.  Sig Rinde brings it a little closer to home in his Organizational Effectiveness vs. Personal Efficiency

It's all about organisational effectiveness. How fast, efficient and correct all information is disseminated, how effective hand-overs in the workflow happens, how visible and easy to understand the process is, how effective the capture and subsequent dissemination of knowledge is and how little time you spend on making the flow happen.

Sig's business interest has him thinking about how many enterprise software sales angles around around making it "easier" for the individuals.  But that isn't what is important at the enterprise and organizational level: the software should be helping to speed the flow of work to improve the throughput. 

And while I still believe PKM (or whatever you want to call my interest in personal effectiveness) is important, in the organization it is more important that the whole thing works effectively.  This means that for many people, there probably should be inefficiencies, according to people who measure "up time" of every single person or piece of equipment.  What PKM should do is enable everyone to have the time to consult and confer and converse as the work goes through the system.  We should have the expectation of working things out, rather than hiding behind piles of paper on the desk or "the system" that tells us to do the wrong thing.

[Photo: "White Pelicans in synchronized feeding" by Alan Vernon]

4 Comment(s)

sig Author Profile Page said:

Hi Jack,

would add another "little" aspect of organisational effectiveness, a rather banal one in fact: If we could "automate" the actual flow there would be much time and resources freed. All research I've seen/heard from puts the figures at between 55 and 75% of "people processes" (my term usually being BRP) is spent on making the flow flow, and not on value creation at all. The exact figure is not important, we know it's huge. The only one that gains from that sad reality, I suspect, would be Scott Adams :)

This "flow work" is in the form of much of the communication, shuffling spreadsheets back and forth, pestering colleagues to update those, many meetings, budgets, even accounting, searching for info not delivered with the task, checking, asking, mulling around... you know the stuff, at the end of the day, manual flow operations and definitely nothing that add to the bottom line nor personal satisfaction. Next time you fire up any enterprise app (CRM say) study the interface and see if there's any process therein. Guess what process you'll find is of the DIY kind...

Thanks, Sig. All my experience and knowledge tells me that your 55-75% number is probably right. And all my experience tells me that most business people won't believe us. I find that they are shocked if I tell them they have 25% of this type of flow inhibition activity going on.

Atle Iversen said:

As always - it depends, YMMV, weakest link in the chain, doing the right things vs. the things right etc etc.

It doesn't matter if everyone is super-effective if the process means they never complete or reach the end-goal. And it doesn't matter if the process is perfect if each individual does nothing that fit in the process.

As a former consultant; there is *a lot* of room for improvement in the process, but there is *also* a lot of room for improvement in the efficiency of each individual.

Back in the day, our consultants were divided into four different areas: Strategy, Process, Technology, People. All parts are important !

Organizational effectiveness is useless without individual effectiveness, and (somewhat) vice versa. Often people get things done *despite* of their organization and process...

And those business people that won't believe this definitely haven't read enough Dilbert ;-)

John said:

Thanks a lot! Very actual theme for me. As addition I recommend to read the article Improving personal efficiency

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