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Office Space Turns 20 – Serious Lack of Alignment

The cost of unaligned teams that are unclear of how they’re adding to the success of the organization is huge.

Not everyone likes their job.

I love the old classic movie, Office Space, which was filmed in Austin, Texas which just marked its 20th anniversary. If you’re looking for Academy Awards quality, you won’t find it in this movie, but it has become a cult classic and I watch it every year or so.

It’s Not that I’m Lazy—I Just Don’t Care

If you’ve seen the movie you remember it opens with Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) headed to work at his soul-killing job at Initech Software Company. He’s in “horrible” traffic on MOPAC, which would be considered a light day by 2019 standards. Peter arrives at his job which he hates, where the company is housed in a bland 1970s multistoried building filled with endless rows of cubicles with bored employees doing undefined tasks.

Peter ends up being interviewed by “Bob and the other “Bob,” two bland, shapeless management consultants, who are interviewing key people to find out the scoop on who really adds value to the organization. If the “Bobs” are looking for the unvarnished truth, they find it in Peter, who tells them his strategy is to stare at the desk for a couple of hours each day and stay out of the way of his 8 bosses who each come by to remind him of the same mistake. Peter tells these fact-hungry consultants that he works about 15 minutes a day and that the goal of people at Initech is to do the minimum amount to not get fired.

Show Me a Reason to Care—No Skin in the Game

Employees at Initech all felt they had no skin in the game, and no reason for them individually or as a team to succeed. For most of us who lead in organizations, however, we ask ourselves the questions every day, “How effective was I getting my job done today?” Did I contribute to the goal of the organization to increase revenue and market share?

It’s easy in organizations to get lost in the bureaucracy and in politics.

A few years ago the CEO of a large startup company told me, “We’re hiring a lot of new people, more every day. What I’ve noticed is that when someone comes on board, within a year they’re working 18 hours a day, and they have no idea how what they’re doing contributes to the success of the company.

Calculating the Cost of Unaligned Teams—Big Buck Gone!

The cost of unaligned teams to the success of the organization is huge,

  • In 2016 fully 70% of the corporate budget is the cost of personnel.
  • For every million dollars spent by a company, $700,000 is spent on people.
  • 37% of employee time is spent in meetings.
  • $259,000 per year is the cost of meetings for a company that invests a million dollars a year in employees.
  • The low hanging fruit for any company is to make communication more effective and efficient.

Endless Emails or Moves that Score

I know that you begin each day as I do with a flood of emails, texts, and requests for meetings. If I dive into the day and on top of what’s happening, it’s soon 6:00 in the evening, and I’ve spent the entire day in emails, meetings, calls and putting out fires. If I concentrate on my strategic to-do list and ignore the crises around me, there are very unpleasant consequences. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think it’s all about which ball I’m going to drop, or as an executive friend recently said, “who I’m going to disappoint today.”

No matter what I’m doing or what the crisis is that’s looming, I have to focus on two things that help me decide where to put my time. I go by these principles of alignment:

  • Is what I’m doing contributing to increasing revenues and market share for my organization?
  • Is it contributing to my role in making my organization more successful?

Creating alignment in an organization through understanding organizational goals and individual roles is the key to bringing down the cost of meetings, emails, and initiatives in an organization.

Revolutionizing the Cost of Communication

Here are three ways that you can revolutionize the cost of communication in your organization by increasing alignment:

Establish Metrics. Organizations create metrics for everything except how we’re doing on doing the work. We create metrics for accounting, purchasing, the speed of technology. At the same time, with email, texts, online tools for meetings and documents, I believe that organizational processing is SLOWED DOWN, not aided by these technological tools, which can be valuable, but we need to create the metrics of success for communications. Email strings and Bootcamp endless comments are adding time to our process. We need a system of metrics that tell us organization-wide if we’re taking longer to make decisions or shortening our time.

Focus on Mission. No matter what we’re communicating about, we know we must focus on the mission–but sometimes we drift farther and farther from it. If there is anything that has been learned in the last years it is that teams need an overall direction in order to focus on the mission. Organizations audit many aspects of the work of an organization, but NEVER audit communication. This is why teams lose focus on the mission.

Create a Mindset. The mindset of an organization is created by creating an organizational culture of 1) serving our customers 2) empowering each other as employees, and 3) creating value for our organization. The fewer opportunities employees have to come together to create the mindset, the less they will be able to share values and mission. In order to create a mindset of mission, we need tools. Tools such as MBTI-Step II and 360s can help create that mindset.

Organizations invest more in people than in any other aspect of their business, yet the potential savings through bringing down the costs of communication through alignment is enormous. I would value time discussing this with you.

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