I have a few consultations every week which enables practitioners and students to interact with me. I then pack a lot of the contents of the office hours into blog articles. This article is also the origin of the telephone consultation hours.
I have received numerous calls from Scrum masters and project leaders as well as change managers since March 2020 – the topic was the change in work since the lockdown caused by COVID-19. Virtual work forces companies to make numerous changes and, due to falling sales, companies are primarily obliged to deliver and to bring products / services to customers quickly. There is no longer any time for long voting channels and long discussions. Companies need to act now.
I work and nobody participates!
Unfortunately, I hear the sentence from the headline very often. The employees or managers want to implement projects and customer requests quickly. However, it seems almost impossible to bring a task into the company. Each task must be coordinated extensively and described in tickets so precisely that it takes more than double the time to complete the task.
For the test subjects it seems like a fight against giants, only a tiny IT change (a few lines of code) or a project plan approval from management. The test subjects feel that every task, no matter how small, has to go through a massive approval and coordination process. But where does that come from?
Work avoidance measures
Basically, companies are structured according to controllability and control. Unfortunately, this system also requires numerous measures to avoid work. We see examples in the picture above, which I have also seen in my career as a management consultant, especially in large companies.
Unfortunately, such measures to avoid work become more and more numerous as the company grows. Examples are:
- Requirements are missing
- The business case is missing
- The boss should approve it
- I’m not responsible for this
- There is no process
- I am asking questions and confusing the applicant
- Somebody else has to do that – who don’t I know
- Who said I have to do this
- The problem needs to be described in more detail
- The ticket is incomplete
- I need approval from Department X.
Let’s talk exaggerated and imagine that we work in an organization with 12,000 employees. Exaggerated, with these sentences we could easily deny ourselves any task for 2 weeks. With every request to us, we would use one of the many work avoidance measures and let requests suffocate in the bureaucracy.
Domino effect: avoidance of work
I don’t know whether on purpose or not, but depending on the duration, it happens that an employee practices this type of avoidance. Then employees in his environment start trying to do this as well. Imagine: someone directs a task to you that you should produce a report for the Astron project. But you know that the Astron project manager avoids a lot of work and will find it difficult to give you the data. You will have to ask for 8 hours to create a report of 1 hour of effort. The project manager will ask you to get approval from the boss and ask why the report is necessary. You can prepare for a long discussion, especially since the project manager can hardly reach the boss. You don’t feel like doing it and you are subconsciously trying to avoid this yourself and ask the applicant for approval from the boss for the report: a serious domino effect
Conclusion and my tips
Such work avoidance measures are very bad for companies. It is easy to exploit governing bodies and corporate functions for such a wrong use case. This then becomes a dangerous domino effect. One by one will lose interest. It only helps to abolish such measures with the help of agile methods and to show transparently where such work avoidance is practiced. This is what managers are primarily required to do. In the end, however, the most important thing is: the mindset of the employees does not apply such measures.
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Image-Source Titlepicture: Fotolia.de 2016 – buyed License