I’m a bottleneck…but I try to improve

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1987

I wrote “I”…as I could I written “us”, “you”… a little story that’s, of course, imaginary. Any similarity whith any existing situation or people is accidental.

Finally, I did it well. Slowly, step by step, I climbed up the company’s hierarchy and took more and more responsabilities.

Today, I’m managing a large team. I’m responsible for my team’s results so I take care of everyhting and do my best to keep everything under control. Nothing is done without my approval. And nothing can happen if I’m not informed. As time went by I become a little less directive, more mature. I know that giving orders and setting objectives is not enough. So I’m trying to do make myself avaible to help my staff, to help them to carry on.

I also have many internal responsabilities. On many strategic fields, nothing is done without consulting me. I’m involved in many internal think tanks, advisory groups. The company does nothing until such a group has spent a long time thinking about what has to be done and how.

I don’t even mention the relations with key clients and partners, which is my exclusive domain.

That’s not easy everyday. The people I’m in contact with are as busy as me. It’s very hard to find a moment to discuss together, to make the decisions that break deadlocks. And this can’t be done by email. It’s even worth with internal meetings, because we have to deal with the schedules of sometimes ten or fifteen very busy people. What a pity : most of times, only five are really active, the other being a part of the decorum. Sometimes I’m one of the five. Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing there. A short report would be enough, just to let me know what has been said and decided.

In short : I’m responsible and essential. Nothing can be done without me. So you can imagine how much money my company makes thanks to me.

Humm… I have to admit that sometimes I’m doubtful.

Everything related to the higher authorities having priority, I don’t have time to care about my staff. So, when they need me they send me an email and wait until I have the tome to answer. In the meantime…they swith to something else and the current tasks are being left high and dry. What’s worse is that in many cases they ask me for an advice, an information they need to carry on and my only added value is to forward their email to another person. When I have enough time…

It was the same when I was only project leader. I was the famous “point of contact”. In fact, I used to spend my time relaying messages…and their answers. Hoping no information could get lost, that I will properly explain to someone what someonelse asked me about very technical issues with words and concepts I could not understand. I was the “key guy’. Now I realize I was the one that made things go more slowly.

Today I’m still doing the same. But at a higher level. 6 months to make a decision because we lack time to prepare it. Messages I forward up and down without bringing any added value. It’s the same with clients. In 95% of the cases it’s someone else who has to do something, my only job being to back. Of course, I’m still here to support my staff…in fact I don’t have time for it. So I switch back to “command and control” mode, I give them orders and check what has been done at the end of the month.

I think I’m slowing everything down. Requests from clients that are not dealt with, people who are waiting for my advice, my answer my authorization. But why don’ they do thing on their own ? Maybe because I told them not to.

We do things less well, less fast, we put pressure without dealing with the real barriers. In fact I’m a central person. But instead of creating value, I’m destroying it, slowing all the company down ? I’m a burden to my trams. By keeping on fowarding information, coordinating everything even when people don’t need me, I’m doing everything but my job. I’m wondering if they’ve been successful because of me or despite of me so far.What’s worse is that I’m not alone : there are hundreds, thousands people like me. Talk about key people ! We are brudens, bottlenecks. We are those who prevent things from being done. We exhort people to do more and more while we are the limiting factors.

I’ve seen what’s being done in many companies, such as Cisco. Building communities, making things in order information is accessible to me if needed but doesn’t flood me…so that I can focus on what matters. Asynchronous online discussions, less but more productive meetings. Are they crazy ? Or did they understand something we missed ?

Anyway…they speed thing up, they try, they act.

I should say a few words about that, at the next meeting of the board. They will make fun of me. Better wait until…till what in fact ?