Is your organisation too busy for its own good? - Michelle Gibbings

Is your organisation too busy for its own good?Being busy is the new normal, with the words ‘I’m busy’ often featuring in our response to the question ‘How are you?”.

We spend much of our day rushing from appointment to appointment, event to event and trying to cram so much into one day.

Busy-ness is generated from a number of different factors. It can be:

  • A desire to keep up with other people and not wanting to miss out on things, and therefore we over-commit
  • Because we are focused on trying to achieve or change something
  • Due to a lack of prioritisation and disorganisation, leading to our attention being scattered and unfocused

Being busy can keep us stimulated and engaged. On the flipside, it can also cause us to be unproductive and mean we achieve little.

It’s the same for organisations.

Most organisations are busy, but that doesn’t mean they are effective or productive. In fact, the busy-ness can mask the true extent of the problem.

Research by Bain & Co found that people in many companies spend 25% or more of their time at work on what can be classified as low-value or inefficient activities.

This inefficiency is created by a continued process of add-ons; that is, the addition of new products, services, businesses, geographies, acquisitions and the like without the removal of other activity.

Consider this scenario…

A new product or service is created, which may be a good idea as it meets the market’s needs. However, it also creates more work and the introduction of new processes and technology, and so introduces additional complexity to the organisation.

When this happens – again and again – with no removal of older products eventually the organisation has a product catalogue with hundreds of items on it, burdening the organisation with processes and practices that may not be needed.

This creates an overly complex environment where it is harder for employees to prioritise efforts and for change to happen – ultimately impacting an organisation’s growth.

What are the signs that your organisation may be in the ‘busy trap’?

It includes:

  • When your organisation is always looking to do more, but not thinking about what it will stop
  • When the organisation’s strategic intent is missing or unclear
  • If your organisation is never willing to stop a project once it’s started, even if evidence suggests that it should be stopped
  • When projects are started, but many are never finished
  • If initiatives/projects in your organisation are started with no clear reason or business case
  • When employees work long hours will little return on the investment of their time

The most successful organisations pay equal attention to what they do and don’t do.  Think of companies such as Apple, Google, Zappos and Atlassian. They aren’t all things to all people.  They know where they need to focus their energy. They know that being focused helps them more productively utilise scarce resources.

Organisations are constantly looking for the next big thing so as to grow revenue. And while continued growth demands the development of new products and services, it also requires attention being paid to what the organisation may no longer need to do.

Reviewing what to stop or alter is best done in light of the organisation’s purpose – ensuring that the work undertaken is focused, strategically aligned and purposeful.

So if your organisation is too busy for its own good – it’s time to get busy on purpose.


Change happens.  Make it work for you.

Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian.  Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them accelerate progress. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’.  For more information: or contact