THE BLOG
05/28/2016 07:20 pm ET Updated May 29, 2017

Task Saturation - The Silent Killer of Business Growth & Ways To Eliminate It

Memorial Day is around the corner and holidays are time for reflection. The downtime brings rest, rejuvenation & perspective.

Time, during this period, can be a bit more 'elastic' with low Task Saturation.

In this reflective period, it's good to take a pause from Task Saturation and consider this question - "how will you, in the next 7 months leading to the close of the year, position your business appropriately within your market(s) and drive impeccable execution?"

It requires operational elasticity.

Task Saturation

"And you run and you run to catchup with the sun but it's sinking.
Racing around to come up behind you again ...." - Pink Floyd

Overflowing inboxes, full schedules and mounting priorities have become a way of life for many professionals today. Businesses have become too accustomed to operating at full capacity without the resources needed.

Speed is the new currency. And having a strong bias towards action is desirable, often at the detriment of having a plan. I am all for action, but sometimes teams mistake action as activity, ie doing something (even if its counterproductive) is considered the best course of action.

Studies show that goalkeepers who stay in the center of the goal, rather than leaping to the right or left, perform the best. They have a 33.3% chance of stopping the ball. Nonetheless, goalies stay in the center only 6.3% of the time. Why? Because it looks and feels better to have missed the ball by diving, even if it turns out to have been in the wrong direction, then to have stood still and watch the ball sale by.

The same aversion to 'just doing something' holds true particularly when there is no operational elasticity.

But what is operational elasticity.


"Operational elasticity is enough time and resources to effectively accomplish a purpose and produce the intended, expected result"


Not having enough time and resources leads to task saturation. Not only is it unhealthy for any organization it can create irreparable mistakes. Task saturated employees may often start to shut down and channelize on one problem. Fighter pilots call this 'dying relaxed'. It is a phenomenon when the focus is intensely on just one thing and ignoring others.

Some channelize to a point where they are dropping some of the most important elements that can keep your jet in the air or in business, keep your business alive. Agility is lost and if an issue comes up and is not in the channel they are dealing with at that point in time, they are going to ignore it. They may look busy, but are only busy in one channel and often a lot of projects can drop off the map.

With zero to minimal operational elasticity you often find teams having high stress levels, pushing back, starting to take more time off, basically - shutting down. As operational elasticity decreases, performance decreases and executional errors increase.

Organizations are, rightfully so, focused on outcomes vs. activities.

"Advocating outcomes without operational elasticity leads to exhaustion due to lack of reflection. Reflection helps teams and individuals, understand and internalize, what they did well and what they did wrong."

Absent of any operational elasticity leads to task saturation, a silent killer and one of the key drivers of employee disengagement. Here are 5 ways to build operational elasticity.

1. Pipeline of Talent

Always, always keep building a talent pipeline. Resources like LinkedIn are excellent in identifying active and passive candidates. The key is to practice the 'fierce urgency of now' in filling the roles you have open in the organization. Few recruiting leaders truly understand the negative business and recruiting impacts that result from slow hiring. And slow hiring does not necessarily improve the quality of those you hire.

2. Expectations & Debriefs

All good performance begins with clear expectations and goals. Setting the right expectations with clear and measurable data is critical. What influences outcomes is the collective values and workplace culture. Leaders must become facilitators rather than directors. Outcomes focused organizations, have successfully developed facilitation expertise throughout the organization and facilitation can promote real dialogue, collaborative exploration, knowledge-sharing, and break-through innovations.

Debriefs are the breakfast of champions and are best when they are rankless and designed to tap into the individual perspectives of the team members and ultimately reaching to a list of lessons learned. Done and documented properly it can be an effective learning experience for your organization. So debrief often.


3. Agility

When an organization is agile, employees are alert. They anticipate what might happen next. They see opportunities and decide quickly and capably which to pursue.

It's a pleasure to lead and work in these organizations. People jump on new ideas and are eager to reach across functional lines - or to partners outside the organization - to innovate. They are decisive.

As a Marketer I will share an example of the marketing function. Define a process designed to increase alignment between the business goals of the organization and the sales teams, to improve communication both within and outside the marketing team, and to increase the speed and responsiveness of marketing. This process is iterative, allowing for short marketing experiments, frequent feedback, and the ability to react to changing market conditions. It would also help define which tasks to shed, based on which conditions, and the impact on the business.

4. Recognition

Structured recognition programs within organizations are certainly good. Unstructured, impromptu recognition for a job well done, amidst limited to zero operational elasticity, goes a long way for an individual or a team. Reflexive praise reinforces the employee-employer bond and drives positive employee engagement. In context and authentic recognition is most effective when it's given the context of the larger business goal.

5. Strategic Narrative - coherent, consistent, communicated

A strategic narrative is the ability of the organization to create a vision of the future. This could include outlining goals and structure for the business, the market in which the organization exists, the competitive landscape and must be both realistic and compelling for stakeholders, especially your employees. Not only should it be coherent but also adaptively consistent and communicated beyond just a all-hands meeting. Positioning this narrative externally is as important as adopting it internally. A well communicated, coherent, consistent strategy galvanizes the employee-employer bond and assists not only in stronger effective execution, but also in addressing operational elasticity challenges when they arise.

As you ponder ways to improve operational elasticity in your business, remember that up to 75% of your costs comprises of theTalent in your organization and it is this talent that drives Vitamin R (revenue).

Have thoughts on improving operational elasticity in your business? I would love to hear your comments.