Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic

REARRANGING THE DECK CHAIRS ON THE TITANIC
Rick Brenner of Chaco Canyon Consulting uses a phrase which I like very much when referring to manament’s use of time:  he calls it: “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”  He is referring to the tendency to take futile or irrelevant actions in times of extreme pressure or crisis.  It is also a valid metaphor in organizational behavior  when so much of the work we do is irrelevant to our organizational goals.  Here are some examples:
ATTENTION TO DEFLECTIVE ACTIVITIES: Deflective activities are those that we don’t need to do right now — and maybe don’t ever need to be done – but we apply resources and people to them anyway. Most of those working on deflective activities sense that their efforts are wasted, but they’re either afraid to mention this to management, or they’ve tried already, to no avail.  In many cases, people working on deflective activities are management.
PREOCUPATION WITH UNIMPORTANT DETAILS: Management often tends to invert priorities,  occupying themselves with unimportant details.  Examples include preparing beautiful graphics for presentations that have only internal audiences, perfecting the layout of a Web page that’s useless or worse because it has outdated or incorrect information, or having meeting after meeting about the color scheme of the third floor while failing to address the facility-wide overcrowding problem.
CLUTTERING THE AGENDA WITH LOWER PRIORITY ITEMS: In the case of meetings, one very damaging example of priority inversion is agenda cluttering: the  collection of low-priority or routine items that fully consume the time of the meeting and the energy of the people attending, long before they get down to the important issues.  Sometimes this happens because of rigid adherence to address an “urgency”, forcing unimportant items to the top of the agenda ahead of issues far more important. Agenda cluttering can also happen because of an unspoken agreement not to address the difficult issues.
TASK DELY DUE TO HOARDING: We hoard equipment, space, budget, people, and supplies. Analogously, we retain people who’ve demonstrated an inability to perform, or space we can’t use. Hoarding might arise from worry associated with feelings of being overwhelmed by the many issues and problems remaining unresolved due to the focus on deflective activities, priority inversions, agenda cluttering, and the considerable effort spent to conceal the hoarding.
PERFECTIONISM:  the belief that perfection is both attainable and mandatory and that anything not done perfectly is unacceptable. It often manifests itself as continued work on tasks beyond the point where additional effort creates significant or additional value. It is the irrelevance to the organizational mission that qualifies perfectionism as deck-chair behavior. Perfectionism in managers often makes them extremely demanding, which accounts for subordinates sometimes experiencing perfectionism as micromanagement, and often causes us to reject perfectly workable solutions.
In our next “TOP LEADERSHIP” blog, we will look at some practical solutions to these deck-chair behaviors in our reports, their reports and in ourselves.
                
E-Mail: gbl@amauta1.com
Website: <http://amauta-international.com>
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©Copyright 2011 – Amauta International, LLC. 
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