Information Imbalance for Executives: Why there’s Too Much/Too Little to Work with
If you walk down the chip aisle at your local grocery store, you’ll be faced with near endless variety to choose from.
Shelf after shelf is lined with instantly recognized big name brands as well as eye-catching independent labels. They all offer a plethora of flavors to choose from, with those flavors often divided into sub flavors. After all, why settle for simple cheese when you could delight your taste buds with nacho cheese, sharp cheddar, white cheddar, parmesan, or more? Of course, before you choose the flavor, you first need to decide if you want corn chips or potato chips. Oh wait, there’s also the option of whether you desire fried, baked, puffed, or toasted.
Faced with all this information to go over, we all too often ignore or overlook most of it in favor of focusing on what we’re used to or comfortable with. This might not be a bad strategy when grocery shopping, where missing out on a tasty new flavor is an easy price to pay, but when the same strategy is applied to management, critical data can go unnoticed and cost companies dearly.
Much like a grocery shopper, those in charge often find themselves overwhelmed with information. The advancement of technology that has enabled us to stay in constant contact with endless streams of information is both a blessing and a curse, as it’s all too easy to get caught in the current and find ourselves drowning in all the data. The current gets even stronger as you go higher up the corporate ladder, and since those individuals are often tasked with making the most important decisions, keeping them afloat is imperative to keeping the business alive.
While it’s all well and good that digital platforms can connect employers with their employees without having them all in the same place, the sheer abundance of these platforms usually means that the messages aren’t in the same place either. When a team leader has to try and remember whether that message they got earlier and need to follow up on was from their email, their cell phone, their project management software, or their company-wide messaging service, just tracking the contact down can end up being an endeavor in and of itself. The hunt becomes even more difficult when each one of those platforms continues to update with more information, causing the team leader to become blind to what is currently happening as they search for information that may very well be immaterial by the time they find it.
As problematic as this is, it gets even worse when that leader then has to report to their leader, who is even more lost in the miasma of messages than the person below them, and so on and so forth.
We all want to place our faith in those above us to do their best and to keep the company running, just as they trust in us when they delegate responsibilities and assign us our tasks. Unfortunately, all the well wishes in the world won’t make up for a broken pipeline feeding incomplete information from one executive to another. Avoidable mistakes will end up getting made, blame will be thrown around, and everyone involved will feel betrayed. This sense of betrayal can be detrimental to the cooperation of the team, which often exacerbates the existing problems in the information pipeline and decision making process, which in turn makes everyone even less trusting of one another, and on the cycle goes.
In order to avoid such a terrible fate, responsible leaders at every link in the chain need to focus their attention on organizing the influx of information. Establishing a clean and clear flow throughout the company as a whole, as well as within each department, is an excellent starting point. By specifically arranging who contacts who about what and in which order, it increases the ability for team leaders to go over the information they’re receiving and arrange their workload accordingly, empowering their decision-making process and boosting efficiency. By utilizing a streamlined system like this, delegation becomes easier and accountability becomes clearer, a benefit that gets passed from one level to the next when properly implemented.
Mind you, this system won’t magically solve all your company’s problems. Once the system is established, it must be strictly enforced in order for it to be effective. People have a habit of trying to skip steps and pursue what they perceive to be easier paths, but the supposed convenience will in truth lead to disarray and cause the system to crumble, which is what often leads to information mismanagement problems in the first place.
However, when utilized correctly, the system will enable everyone involved to properly apply their skills so that they may remedy any issues that occur. This heightened productivity will help to restore trust amongst the workforce and rebuild their faith in the company, which in turn reinvigorates their drive, which in turn makes them even more productive. A kind cycle like this doesn’t just keep people from getting caught in the current, it ensures smooth sailing for you and your company alike.