A long time ago my father in law, now 80, was a mainframe IBM programmer (IBM 1401 4k/IBM 1410 32k). We’re talking a computer that took up a whole room that ran from punch cards. He said when they got 32kb of memory the programming team was ecstatic to have that much “room” to play with. Memory was expensive back then. You had to write tight and fill the “buckets” (sorry Dad, not being technically accurate here). If something didn’t fit quite right the computer stored it elsewhere and before long your hard drive was “fragmented”.
Every once in a while, you would defrag your disc. Simplifying again, defragging squished everything, filling the buckets and thus freeing the unused space. Defragging helped optimize the memory space available. I see some similarities between defragging a computer and optimizing a team.
Since the Industrial Age began, businesses have organized their work based on responsibilities or “buckets”. People work in these “buckets”. If done right, buckets ensure multiple people aren’t working at conflicting ends, and more importantly, ensure two people are not wasting time doing the same thing.
When companies find their resources are stretched in one part of the organization while other areas are not quite fully loaded – some old fashion defragging may be needed. If it is time to defrag your organization here are some suggestions…
Stop doing unnecessary stuff. Not all routine things still need to be done. Tell your team thanks, then tell them it is no longer needed. If you do not read the report, stop having someone write it!
Re-prioritize and communicate the reprioritization. Everyone needs to know the batting order has changed. Stress the important – and walk the talk. Don’t tell people it is not the priority and then still ask for priority report outs.
Consider what must be accomplished. Can any of “it” move from being part of a job description to being a “project”. Project work can go across disciplines. Project work can expose your team to the greater business, growing your team’s foundation, and engaging everyone.
Do some research – who thinks they can do more? Who is interested in some variety? Give them permission to do something outside their day to day responsibilities. Give them the ok to move across the hallway and pitch in.
It may be time to defrag your teams. You may be surprised how much more your team can accomplish if you utilize the empty spaces.