Too much email, too many meetings, too many nights working: What's your organizational currency?
By Jason T. Eder
Let's say someone in your company goes on vacation for a week. They return the following Monday and at some point you get a chance to catch up with said person. What are they going to tell you?
"I had 4,100 emails this morning to go through."
The problem here is the implication that 4,100 emails is directly related to that person's value within the company. If I go on vacation for a week, and I only get 200 emails while I'm gone, I must not be as important as the first person.
That's the message, anyway. It's almost a bragging right of sorts at this point isn't it? Click below to read more
I first heard the term 'organizational currency' while writing my graduate thesis on organizational behavior in media companies. One could make a compelling case for calling it disorganizational behavior in media companies.
In its simplest form, organizational currency means identifying the cultural behavior that gets rewarded, and thus perpetuated. This is different than incentives. Incentives are often tied to performance results - something well within the control of the individual. That often looks like hitting a growth margin, landing a certain number of new clients, increasing revenue or audience, or any array of job-specific behaviors to get more out of the employee.
Organizational currency - regardless of your industry - is what the company culture reinforces.
Another good example - meetings. How much of your work time is in a meeting room? One of the best bosses I've worked for has a status update, "Another meeting that could've been an email - check." Love it.
How effectively are you using the time? Or is your company just in the habit of making meetings for everything? Over time, engagement dwindles. Jokes start. And what was once designed to be a team update, feedback session, or a reoccurring brainstorm meeting has evolved into a bane for everyone.
You could make the same argument for hours worked. What time people arrive and leave every day. Or weekend work. Or who takes 20 minutes for lunch and who takes an hour.
Inside a culture where these behaviors are somehow reflective of your importance, your organization is building a house of cards. Your people will feel compelled to have meetings, to be in meetings, and to be seen in meetings. They will respond to emails when it isn't necessary to respond to emails. They will dock unproductive hours - a different 10 minute break might be more productive than tacking on two extra hours at the end of the day.
If those are the problems - what are the solutions? Transition to Slack. Move people around internally. No Meeting Mondays. Working lunches. There is no The Answer. Just an answer specific to your organization.
Whatever your organizational currency is, just be conscious about it. We live in a society highly susceptible to group-think. Be careful what you are telling yourselves or your real mission will grow in the shadow of cultural waste.
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