A Cold Turkey Approach to Organizational Efficiency

Kristina BrownOften times we hear from upper management that making hasty and irrational decisions can be the detriment of an organization. Every idea has to be evaluated and thought through, assuming the idea even makes it to the level of a person that can honestly do anything with it.

Employees can be heard in the lunch room complaining about how long they have been waiting for a document to be signed or how inept a co-worker can be. People complain about employers not taking action and employers complain about employees not following through on their work.
However, all we see day in and day out is the mumbling and grumbling of a slow paced, inefficient, ineffective workplace, dominated by a culture of bad habits and long-standing traditions accompanied by the “Chain of Command” barriers that get us absolutely nowhere in a very long and unpleasant path we call, “That’s How Its Always Been!”

Over the years, I have learned a lot of valuable things; on the arm of rebellion some would say, I personally feel that the chain of command subdues the cries of hardworking and intelligent new hires that can contribute to new, improved, and money saving, money making ideas. I have tasted the frustration of watching employers hide behind their desks when they rather not shake the existing structure and see themselves on a Senior Exec’s Trouble Making List.

I have had my fair share of heartbreaking conversations with CEOs and CFOs of multi-million dollar companies, where I have clearly told them, “You are losing money and good people, and I can’t stay here and watch it.” To my utter dismay I have simply received responses of “I’ll look into it, but I can’t tell you anything will change.” I suppose millionaires and multi-billion dollar entities don’t care about saving money here or there, or diminishing indirect costs caused by poor workflows that never get fixed. Let’s not even get into improving the satisfaction of their employees and stakeholders.

So how do we fix it? How do stop being organizations of “I don’t knows,” “I don’t cares,” and “I don’t think it makes a difference.” Why not? I always ask myself. We are fully capable of change, of learning, of being passionate, of accepting reality, but we deliberately choose not to because of fear of the Higher Ups, because of fear of taking a risk that can lead us to disaster, because of fear of making someone who has been there so long upset.

School PrincipleMe personally I don’t work this way. I take the “Cold Turkey Approach” regardless of who it upsets, regardless of what waves it causes, but I tell you this every time I do things this way it gets fixed and things change for the better. It doesn’t take 3 months, 6 months or a year, it happens right away because I don’t fear and I trust my process and back it 100% even if it costs me my job.

What exactly is the Cold Turkey Approach to Organizational Efficiency you ask? Well let me explain the theory. First, let me begin by adding I don’t condone being disrespectful to the Higher Ups or anyone for that matter. I don’t completely disagree with the idea of a “Chain of Command,” but when someone really understands a need, has a great idea, and has seen loss and gain with a solution, how can you not be open and acceptant to that person speaking up. I completely understand that organizations see a need to create systems of reporting to make it easier on the Execs to run their organizations, but the reality is what is perceived as efficient and easier can sometimes indirectly cost us money, time, and respect with our stakeholders. There is no excuse for this.

A front-line employee should not use the excuse of I don’t know and I don’t care, but neither should the people above them. What I mean by this is that the Execs and the Higher Ups should know the work underneath them. How can you ever improve your organization if you don’t know the ins and outs and the day to day work of the employees who make the organization run? Is it really too hard for an employer to spend a day seeing what their employee does, not judging, just making notes on how they can truly help their staff and ultimately their organization. Why have we become an organization where employers, supervisors, and the Execs only care to report what their staff is doing rather than truly understand what they do and contribute to making it better? Laziness maybe or the overall presumption of “no time.” Well let’s think about this, is it possible we don’t have time because we are constantly trying to put out fires because of inefficient methods that are costing us time and money. Those fires start at the bottom. Don’t you see! To make matters worse when someone actually wants to share how to improve it no one listens, their fire is quenched, they leave, or they get reprimanded for speaking up, for escalating an idea outside of the chain of command, how does that make any sense?

This employee that is causing this ruckus is taking a Cold Turkey Approach to support in organizational efficiency and the truth is it is needed. How do we implement this person’s well explained, well thought out, proven idea to save the organization money, time, effort, etc.? Simply and easily you support in the design of an organizational revamped workflow plan. Write it down. Listen to what this person says. Map it out and see who needs to be involved to make it happen. Develop trainings in conjunction with this person to ensure everyone knows how to apply the new method. I say in conjunction because I have also seen managers see a great idea, take it, and leave the person who developed it out of the process and as a result they also leave out important steps; making a great and efficient idea immediately ineffective.

School AdministratorsFinally, here is the big kicker, those Higher Ups we are all fearful of need to take the idea and tell everyone underneath them to do what they need to do to follow the new policies, procedures, and approach. Simple as that. How do you get those Higher Ups to listen, simply tell them there is a need and it will save them money. I am sure they will be alright with a meeting on the matter, but remember you need to be prepared and have everything written, drafted, and ready for review to implement or the meeting is in vain and nothing gets done. Trust me on this one, if they know they can get more in their pocket chances are they will back you up and lay down the law so to speak.

What I speak here is related 100% to a method that has been tested and proven. That has already been to some degree implemented and to some degree has already been in the hands of everyone that will need to be involved to make it happen. Let me provide a clear example as it relates to Grants Management in a very disconnected and departmentalized organization:

Organization “A” has an Accounting unit, an Accounts Payable unit, a Finance unit, a Programming unit, a Grants unit, a Procurement unit, a Human Resources unit, and the typical Administration oversight. A new Grants Specialist assigned to a Federal Grant the organization has received realizes, upon review of a file, that federal grant dollars are not being utilized correctly. The Specialist realizes this because the financial reimbursement packets, requesting the money back for the grant expenditures, don’t include personnel time and effort logs, copies of cancelled checks, and to make matters worse the accounting software the organization uses does not match the reimbursement packet the last specialist put together. Hence, serious red flags that would trigger any auditor to issue a decree of noncompliance.

The new hire is already clear on the fact that the organization is out of compliance with a very serious matter. No one is supposed to request money back from the government for grant expenditures if they can’t prove they have all the required evidentiary documentation. When the Specialist calls Accounts Payable for the invoices and cancelled checks they need to look for it because they can’t seem to find it. When Accounting is notified that the records don’t match they don’t respond to the email. When HR is contacted for the time and effort logs they say they have a policy in place and can’t share that information with anyone. When Administration is notified they say give it some time.

Time passes and now the organization is past the reimbursement deadline to the grant funding agency. The Specialist knows where the gaps are at and immediately designs a spreadsheet, policies, procedures, and makes a list of items that need to be addressed with these units, and most importantly realizes there is a serious need to get upper management support to implement all of these necessary items. The urgency the Specialist feels is out of concern for this organization because this person realizes that if something isn’t done organization “A” is subject to losing millions of dollars in grant funds and worse will be flagged for noncompliance, which causes them to no longer be eligible for future grant funds.

When the Specialist presents this to the manager for the Grants Unit, the manager says, “Nothing can be done; we can’t just make everyone follow these new rules and processes.”

But why not! The solution is simple. The employee has a method, wrote the rules, and knows what it takes to fix it. All you have to do is implement it and follow through with holding people accountable. The truth is if they wanted to, if they notified the leaders, executives of the organization that money was being lost, time and effort was being lost, no leader in their right mind would say, “No, don’t implement this simple workflow process, let’s wait another year of more measurable losses, let’s keep being inefficient, let’s not upset someone who has been doing this in this manner for years, let’s not hold them accountable for negative outcomes.” Ridiculous.

Cold turkey means just that you stop what you have been doing immediately and let the people that are driven, that are smart, that care, that ask questions, that find answers, that send out a million emails to get something changed, to lead the way to improved and more efficient systems. You back them up and let them save you money and headaches.

Stop saying it can’t be done, it won’t make a difference. Change is possible, but it requires that you stop, think, ask, research, try, test, apply, and execute. Fear of change, fear of upsetting someone, fear of breaking out of the chain that is meant to impede us, is not going to get us anywhere. You want results, you want to make more money, save more time, increase your favor with your stakeholders, then I suggest you start today.

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