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Friday, October 3, 2014

MAKING MOUNTAINS OUT OF MOLE HILLS

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

- Why does it take so long to get things done?

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Ever have a day in the office where it seems nothing is working for you? I did recently. It seemed whatever I tried to do administratively on my computer took an inordinate amount of time to perform. It was very frustrating. For example, printing a simple business letter and envelope took me about thirty minutes. Admittedly, I spotted a typo in the letter of my own doing, but correcting it and getting it finally printed was slow as molasses. Between the operating system, word processor, and printer something seemed to be wrong. Of course, I experienced a Windoze crash in the process causing me to wait to reboot.

Following the letter, I had to make some entries in a data base and generate some reports. I also backed-up the data base when I was finished. Again, another thirty minute task for something seemingly easy to complete. It's not that I'm a bad typist or a novice in the use of the computer. After all, I've been in the business for over thirty years. It just seemed the technology was Hell-bent on stopping me from my appointed rounds.

Later that same day a friend of mine from the Northeast came down to visit the attractions in Orlando, specifically "The Mouse." He called and asked me, "How do you stand it down here?"

"Excuse me?" I asked.

"The people down here are incredibly slow and have no sense of urgency when it comes to customer service."

I started to chuckle. New Yorkers are well known for having a hustle about them. They rightfully want to conduct their business and move along. The South is a little slower. They may be friendlier, but with rare exception they move at their own pace, not the customer's.

At the end of the day, I considered what I had observed, specifically how we tend to "make mountains out of mole hills." Three reasons came to mind; first, regardless of how sophisticated we believe our computer technology is, it is still relatively primitive. It is not intuitive to use which prohibits us from not fully capitalizing on its functionality. Keep in mind, today's technology is designed more in accordance to the whims of the programmer than the end user. This means the end-user is forced to become a technician, something that is not natural to them.

As I've mentioned in the past, there are no metrics proving how technology improves the productivity in our lives. For example, had I had access to a typewriter, I could have easily written my letter and envelope in less than five minutes, not thirty. We also seem to spend in an inordinate amount of time maintaining our computers, such as correcting printer queues, closing and cleaning the cache of web browsers, and implementing updates for the various apps. I don't know about you, but I find I have to reboot my computer at least once a week which wastes five to ten minutes before I can start to work again.

The second element of the "mountains phenomenon" is our interpersonal relations. I find people in the north tend to be more empathetic towards their customers and will go the extra mile in satisfying them. It's just good business to do so. The South is less concerned which becomes a source of frustration for northerners visiting the area. My friend, for example, ordered a pot of coffee to be delivered to his room early in the morning. When it failed to arrive after thirty minutes, he called Room Service and asked what happened to his coffee? The manager apologized but admitted he had forgotten about it. He received his coffee, another thirty minutes later just as he was preparing to check out.

The third reason is there is a belief we cannot perform a job without some form of computer assistance. We therefore tend to think the only viable solution to a problem is by computer. The idea of conducting business any other way, such as through a manual procedure or a typewriter or some other device is overlooked. This is another indicator of the addictive properties of technology.

Perhaps it is nothing more than Parkinson's Law in action, whereby, "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Humans will make mountains out of mole hills to justify their existence at work. However, this also applies to technology whereby we apply more functionality and use more resources than is necessary and, in the process, we make it too complicated to use.

Whatever the reason, making mountains out of mole hills only impedes progress. It certainly doesn't enhance it.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2014 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  ADAPTING TO CHANGE - Before we can adapt to it, we have to understand it.

  - Understanding the concept of "cause" and "effect."

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