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Performance Perspectives Top

Downsizing – Event or Organizational Change?

Downsizing is not just an event that reduces the number of personnel within your organization; downsizing affects processes, culture and systems (which include structures, objectives, alignment, facilities, technology, etc.) as well.  As such, it is very helpful to view downsizing just like any other change initiative your organization may go through – and view downsizing as a change that should be managed.

If your organization has recently downsized (or is about to do so), it is essential to recognize your actions as an organizational change – and not simply a reaction to the market or poor business environment.  If your organization has not carefully considered the future state, but perhaps downsized in response to a declining customer base or an abrupt change in the competitive environment, now is the time to plan.  Without a clear vision of the future state of the organization, the changes involved in downsizing will all be reactionary and not managed.

It is important to recognize that downsizing, like any organizational change, will affect your people, processes, culture and systems.  It is also important to realize that a change in any one of these elements will impact the other three – so even if a downsizing appears to only impact the number of people available to do the work, it will most likely have a noticeable influence on processes, systems and culture as well.

The most obvious impact of downsizing impacts the people who remain with the organization.  To manage this change effectively, pay attention to what people will need to do differently – what changes will be expected of them.  Will they need to do work they previously were not responsible for (e.g., answer phones, take messages, ship packages, etc.)?  Will people be working in new groups, with people they don’t know and who may have very different working styles?  Will people need to be moved to different locations?  Will people know what is expected of them?  Will they need new skills or need to be trained to work new equipment or perform new tasks?

Processes involve how your employees do their work.  Downsizing can affect the processes in your organization in a number of ways.  For example, will the old processes still function with fewer people?  Are there improvements that can be made to eliminate non-value added steps?  Are staff meetings still required if your department now consists of you and one co-worker?  Alternatively, is there a more efficient way to share relevant information? 

Once the downsizing has occurred, you will need to ask yourself if all of the same structures are still necessary (or even still in place)?  Has downsizing removed several layers of management?  With fewer individuals, will everyone still interact the same way?  Can all of your strategic objectives still be supported?  Will everyone still report to the same people?  Will everyone still need the same degree of supervision (or deserve the same degree of freedom)?  Will downsizing affect the actual physical structures of your workplace (e.g., do you now have three offices for every employee?)  How will you reward people, especially if cash flow is an issue?

Lastly, you will need to consider if your organization’s culture supports or hinders its new, leaner size.  Does your culture support more intimate, smaller groups of people working on the same project or task?  Or is your organization married to several layers of bureaucracy that can no longer be supported?  How does your organization handle and respond to conflict?  Will closer or smaller working groups increase or decrease friction between co-workers?  Can your organization support closer working relationship between staff and management (especially upper management)?

Conclusion – Defining the Future State
If your organization has recently downsized, it is best to look at the changes you are experiencing just like any other organizational change effort.  By carefully examining your organizations people, processes, systems and culture, you can begin to align them with the (perhaps new) needs of your smaller organization.  After you ask yourself the questions above, you will need to make decisions on how to proceed and communicate those decisions to your employees.

 All organizations experience some pain when moving from a current to future state.  Careful planning along these four elements can help lessen the impact of this transition and help support your organization in it’s new business environment.

Lessons Learned Top

Topic:  Multitasking

With any downsizing, remaining employees often find they are picking up extra work and may be doing tasks that are new to them.  While boning up your “multitasking” skills may seem like the best approach, recent research suggests that true multitasking may actually decrease your productivity.

Multitasking is working on two separate tasks at the same time.  While it is possible to engage in two activities that use different mental resources (e.g., talking on the phone while folding clothes), trying to engage in two mentally demanding activities at the same time is impossible.  In these cases, what appears as multitasking is actually repeated and rapid switching of attention from one task to another.

While this may look impressive to one’s boss, recent studies have shown that the time involved for an individual to mentally switch from one activity to another can increase the amount of time it takes to complete a task by as much as 30-50%.  The more dissimilar the task, the greater the time it takes to switch between them.

With this in mind, your may want to try the following to make the most of the time you have:

  • Focus on one task at a time to avoid the inefficiencies of “switching.”  If need be, set aside two one-half hour blocks to address groups of similar tasks (e.g., answering messages).

  • Avoid interruptions whenever possible.  If you absolutely must finish a task, let others know you wish to be left undisturbed.  Posting a small “do not disturb” sign on your office door or cubicle works well.

  • Delegate whenever possible – don’t think you have to do everything yourself

  • Keep communication channels open.  Your staff cannot support your efforts if they’re out of the loop.

  • Leverage technology whenever possible.  Use email, voice mail or Instant Messaging to keep in touch with your coworkers/customers and accomplish tasks during “downtime” (i.e., waiting for a flight or while your computer is booting up).

  • Only touch paper once.  When you receive a report or memo, deal with it as soon as possible.  Stacking papers on your desk only makes for more work (and a big mess) down the road.

Marketplace Top

Time Management

Setting priorities and managing time effectively is critical to managing individual and organizational performance.

BEI offers a time management workshop that examines particpant’s time related behavior in 12 learning categories. Participants also develop action plans to improve time management skills ranging from individual attitudes to mastering time in a team environment.

After completing this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Understand how they relate to time in 12 areas: attitudes, Goals, Priorities, Analyzing, Planning, scheduling, Interruptions, Meetings, Paperwork, Delegation, Procrastination, and Time Teamwork.

  • Change their time usage behavior

  • Increase productivity and effectiveness of time usage

  • Develop personal time management improvement plans

The Time Mastery profile (a self-assessment tool), lecture and discussion are used to teach the skills presented in this workshop.  Workshop size is limited to a minimum or 12 and a maximum of 20 in order to ensure individual attention and learning.

To learn more about our services in this area, call us at 248.625.8100 or browse related course offerings at

Worthy Web Sites Top
(CNN) -- Multitasking is a managerial buzz-concept these days, a post-layoff corporate assumption that the few can be made to do the work of many.  But newly released results of scientific studies in multitasking indicate that carrying on several duties at once may, in fact, reduce productivity, not increase it.
The official U.S. Time.  This site is jointly maintained by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and it’s military counterpart, the U.S. Navel Observatory.  The time provided on this site is within 0.0000001 seconds of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

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