organizational clutterIs the complexity of your office environment making business more difficult? Clutter can be defined as scattered items or, for businesses, disordered processes that impede or reduce organizational effectiveness, productivity and revenue. The manufacturing industry has spent decades de-cluttering their factory floors, machining processes and assembly techniques. Today, unfortunately this is no longer limited to manufacturing; the typical office environment has extreme organizational clutter.

Organizational Clutter

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) tracks management methodologies across the United States and Europe. BCG reports that organizational clutter has increased since 1955, primarily because businesses set too many performance imperatives including:

  • Sustaining the environment
  • Diversity
  • Vendor support

Although critically important, these modern day imperatives were less prevalent in the 1950s than they are today and balancing the imperatives and goals associated with them leads to a variety of clutter.

Time Management Clutter

Consulting firm Bain & Company expands on the concept of organizational clutter by pointing out that time management in today’s business world is less efficient as well. Managers spend as much as 15 percent of their time sitting in meetings that fail to produce actionable results. Senior executives are the worst offenders. They can spend days at a time in meetings. And, if your company doesn’t have an automated expense management system, traveling employees can waste time entering their expenses into a spread sheet and then spending more time going through the approval process so they can get reimbursed.

Email Clutter

Bain also states that emails fuel organizational clutter that interferes with productivity. Modern managers send an estimated 30,000 emails a year compared to 1,000 external communications sent by administrators in the 1970s. Opening, reading and digesting each piece of email shifts time away from other activities.

Some Clutter is Necessary

With business success comes some inevitable clutter. Office structure requires a collaborative effort, so some meetings and communications are critical. The larger the company, the more complicated the management and the more necessary the clutter.

The Effect of All This Clutter

Teresa Amabile with Harvard Business School did a study on the routines of 230 people working on creative projects. Her data shows that creativity is lost if employees have to stop what they were doing to go to a meeting. The participants in the study did better when they went through most of the day without interruption.

The Answer to Business Clutter

Large corporations are recognizing the need to clean out the clutter.

  • Jeffrey Immelt with General Electric is setting new standards for the company by introducing simplification. This plan will cut the mega businesses overhead to 12 percent by the year 2016.
  • The head of Siemens is taking a similar approach to de-cluttering by eliminating an entire tier of management and reducing the number of divisions.
  • Alan Mulally made changes to the administrative process at Ford, as well, by calling for an audit of all meetings to keep them tightly controlled. He eliminated their standard “meetings week,” five days a month where management did nothing but attend meetings, too. Now, the company has one concise meeting each week.
  • Intel established a policy that requires all meetings to have a clear purpose.
  • Lenovo encourages their staff to stop meetings if they go off-track.

Bain states that the companies they studied were able to save the equivalent of 200 jobs by cutting meetings by 30 minutes. Large companies such as Seagate Technology and Boeing force executives to account for the bureaucracy explaining the policies they set including meetings and memos.

Whether it’s less frequent meetings, implementing an automated expense management process, or calling once instead of emailing many times - you should always be striving to de-clutter and streamline your organization’s operational efficiency. 

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