Needed: Better Technology to Collaborate and Communicate

In Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power, Michael Mankins and Eric Garton make the case that the competitive advantage for modern organizations lies in their workforce. When financial capital was scarce back in the industrial age, companies focused on optimizing their financial resources. Now, in the knowledge age, financial capital is abundant. However, innovative ideas are in short supply.

Where do the innovative ideas come from? The organization’s workforce. Specifically, an inspired and talented workforce that has the time to do the innovative work. Mankins and Garton demonstrate that organizations which optimize the resources of time, talent, and the workers’ energy are much more successful than other organizations. Think of the successes of Google, Apple, LinkedIn, and Netflix. Each of these companies works to reduce the organizational drag that wastes time, talent, and energy.

Organizational drag should be a familiar concept to anyone who has worked in an organization. “Employees find themselves wasting time on needless internal interactions, unproductive or inconsequential meetings, and unnecessary e-communications,” Mankins and Garton write. “The organizations gets in the way of getting things done. Not many of us can generate great ideas when we are trapped in thickets of meetings and bureaucratic procedures.” Probably the biggest contributor to organizational drag is the time wasted in handling electronic communications, meetings, and collaborating with other employees.

In the 1970s, senior executives could expect to receive up to 5,000 communications a year. In the 2010s, the number of communications grew to 50,000 separate instances a year. Time spent in meetings has also greatly exploded. According to a study by Bain and Company, in the average work week employees would spend the first three-and-half days on e-communications and meetings. The employee wouldn’t start his or her assigned work until Thursday afternoon.

What does this mean for the HRIT community? The bad news is that the digital workplace has just increased the organizational drag. Even the new collaboration technologies which promise to save time and make the workers more productive has become yet another barrier to getting work done. I remember when I first started using Slack. I was sold on the idea that Slack would replace the time sink that is email. Now, Slack is my new time sink as I must continually monitor several different channels in several different Slack teams while notifications keep pinging throughout my work day.

The good news is that there is a tremendous opportunity for the HRIT solution that reduces the e-communication burden while promoting productive meetings and collaborations across the organizational units. Solution or solutions that free up the wasted time caused by organizational drag while giving employees more productive time to create the innovative ideas that will give their organizations the strategic advantage to compete in the knowledge age marketplace. The ultimate goal, according to Mankins and Garton, is to transform the employees from merely satisfied to inspired. An inspired employee is two-and-a-half times more productive than a satisfied employee. The first step is to stop wasting the employees’ time.

Bill Brantley
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Bill Brantley teaches at the University of Maryland (College Park) and the University of Louisville. He also works as a Federal employee for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. All opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of his employers. You can reach him at

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