Business Productivity: For Executives – Organization

“Ignorance is not bliss. It’s fatal. It’s costly. And it’s for losers. You either get organized, or get crushed.” — Donald Trump, American businessman

One of the Six Keys of workplace competence is Accessibility: your ability to organize the inputs and outputs in your work life, so that you can easily locate data in any medium—whether it’s in paper files, on your computer system, on the company Intranet, or distributed in your team members’ heads. Given the fact that modern workers are constantly bombarded with data and communications, just being able to access information efficiently can enhance productivity to a surprising degree.

At the C-Suite level, Accessibility morphs into Organization…and from a productivity standpoint, it’s more important than ever. Organization means more than just maintaining an efficient schedule and getting your personal workspace shipshape. By the time you reach upper management, you ought to be a virtuoso at that level of accessibility, and you should also have a personal staff to help you keep things accessible. But when you’re overseeing a whole organization, company, or division, your organizational bailiwick expands. At that level, true Organization requires a thorough understanding of not just personal accessibility, but also the systems that define and support your entire team. They need to be as tight and effective as possible, and it’s up to you to ensure that reality — if necessary, by imposing it from the top.

I think this is a perfect example of the kind of big-picture work that a top executive, particularly a CEO or President, is responsible for. It’s about as far from micromanaging as you can get, because it effects everyone in your group. You’ve stepped back even farther than a good hands-off manager, because you’re not worried about individual performance per se; you’re dealing with the “platform” on which all the individual “apps” in your organization run, if you will. You’re tweaking the code, and making everything work better for everybody.

One of your prime responsibilities here is to determine what you need to change in order to maximize Organization, which requires that you spend some time studying the entire range of systems and processes by which information is organized, stored, and transmitted within your organizational structure. Don’t expect this to be a quick process; if you try to rush change, you’re likely to make damaging errors. Ultimately, the changes might take months or years to implement—not only because you have to study things thoroughly first in order to determine what needs to be changed, but also because you have to figure out how to pay for those changes…and then you may have to convince a board of directors, the business owner, or other individuals or groups that you report to that the changes are necessary.

Warning: don’t get lost in the concept of change for change’s sake! The cliché of the new broom that sweeps clean is a popular one, but don’t forget the tinkerer’s Number One rule: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The idea is to tighten up existing systems to maximize efficiency, if at all possible. Replacing systems wholesale is unnecessary and wasteful if all you really need to do is streamline and modernize. What truly matters is productivity, and your employees can’t be productive if you’re reorganizing for no good reason.

Once thing I’d like to emphasize before I sign off is the fact that in order to accomplish this new level of Organization, you absolutely need to get all your lieutenants on board. By the time you’ve studied the situation for a while, you ought to have an almost instinctual understand of not just what needs to be done, but also how the individuals who have to implement your changes will react when you propose those changes. It may be that one of your first tasks will be to restructure decision making within your group, so that the Organization can be pulled off efficiently.

You’re the boss. You can’t let your subordinates control the flow of information and data at their whim, not if you want to Organize your company to achieve maximum productivity. If your managers are used to treating their teams as their own private fiefdoms, you’re going to have to break that stranglehold before you can get anything done.

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