“We’re making our people compete with sandbags strapped to their legs”

BusinessWeek has an interesting article in this week’s edition titled The Real Reasons You’re Working So Hard.
The basic premise is that, while the information revolution has boosted
productivity by 70% in the last 25 years, companies that are holding on
to now archaic corporate organizational structures are overloading
their employees with internal inefficiency.  Read this:

Globalization and the
Internet create great new opportunities, but they also ratchet up the
intensity of competition and generate more work — especially with the
existing corporate structure still hanging on tightly. "Nobody wants to
give up their territory or their control," says Shoshana Zuboff, a
former professor at Harvard Business School. Adds Lowell Bryan, a
McKinsey & Co. director: "Professionals are still being managed as
if they were in factories, in organizations designed to keep everybody
siloed. At less well-run companies, you’re struck by how frustrated
people are. They work like dogs and are wasting time."

Make that lots of time. Fully 25% of executives at large companies say
their communications — voice mail, e-mail, and meetings — are nearly
or completely unmanageable. That’s according to a new McKinsey survey
of more than 7,800 managers around the world. Nearly 40% spend a half
to a full day per week on communications that are not valuable. Other
surveys echo similar results. "We’re making our people compete with
sandbags strapped to their legs," says Zuboff.

One only has to look at the popularity of David Allen’s Getting Things Done Methodology
to verify that this is exactly right – millions of workers are
struggling to cope with overly efficient distribution of information
within an inherently broken internal system.  And while there are
lots of companies who provide tools and methodologies to cope with this
problem (ourselves included), there is a real need for big corporations to rethink the way that they manage their people and their business.

When I was in the consulting world, it was these types of
inefficiencies that opened the window for some of our largest and most
successful projects.  One of my clients had all the skills in
house to implement the enterprise systems we were building, but their
employees weren’t empowered to cross departmental lines to get it
done.  They ultimately spent millions in services fees to 3rd
parties who could work outside the corporate bureaucracy.  And
while the project was a huge success (we were inducted into the
company’s "Project Hall of Fame"!) they were paying us as much (or
more) for our skills at crossing organizational boundaries as they were
for our development and implementation work.

For more detail, read the BusinessWeek article The Real Reasons You’re Working So Hard.