I pretty much have a love/hate relationship with the festive season. I hate it because it disrupts my business, but ultimately that's a big part of why I love it too.
Everything comes to a halt. Other than a few folk who end up working standby, we're closed. It isn't much of a choice. Demand for our services are down as everyone else takes a break too. Most everyone on staff would be clicking their heels. So let as many people get the break too.
And I've got time on my hands. Mentally, I just shut down for the first 7 days or so. It's great! Rejuvenating! Refreshing! Wonderful! But sooner or later, I start getting back to observing what is going on around me and relating it back to work.
Now it wasn't always like that. There was a time when the festive season was all joy. The "disruption to business issue" was a non-issue. What changed?
One of the things that caught my attention during this enforced break was a program on Rage flighted on the Discovery channel. It covered Road Rage (Yeah! We all know it happens), and Rage in the Workplace. It was the Rage in the Workplace part that really got me thinking. Especially something called Digital Rage.
When it comes to workplace rage, my kneejerk reaction would be the number one problem is vengeful ex-employees doing a bit of venting after being laid off or dismissed. Not so, apparently.
I don't know if you've ever felt like punching your computer, or throwing it on the floor - but apparently there are folks who have, and more. Much, much more. Like run through the office with a baseball bat smashing every piece of technology that happens to cross their path. Perfectly nice, normal people who suddenly go berserk. And it's on the increase.
No. It's not Bill Gates and his wonderful software - It's stress!
Not from a demanding boss, but from the relentless pace of a demanding digital world. The pace of modern business life is pushing on the borders of our threshold as a species to deal with the continuous pressure. Constantly in touch by cell phone, available by email, demands for your attention can get to you pretty much 24/7 - if you let it. And like any other stress, you'll steadily get less efficient, be able to cope with less, and eventually.... Well let's try not to get to that point.
Now maybe you've got this under control at a personal level. You can manage the flow or you can pass it on. But it struck me that this is more than just a personal capacity problem - it's also an organisation level issue.
Let's be honest for a moment. A big part of modern practice in ownership and management is about making the organisation more efficient. A big chunk of this is squeezing more production out of fewer people, often using technology. And I'm inclined to think we might have reached the point where business and technology has got too good at it. The human component is starting to break.
So it would seem that technology has become both a blessing and a curse. Huh! Just like the festive season is for me!
Being nice and relaxed, I also was idly pondering a term used in technology that has been torturing me for some time. Redundancy.
I was getting this word quite a lot, at least until my last change in hosting services. "The network will be down from 4- 6 to install/upgrade/something really technical I didn't understand.... This will improve our redundancy!"
Now in normal life redundancy is bad news, normally associated with people no longer being needed and losing their jobs. So I hope you'll understand my confusion as to why techno folk would be so happy and excited about increasing redundancy.
It turns out that redundancy is really just a fancy word for spare capacity that isn't normally used. However, if something changes and there's an unusual shift in load, this spare capacity is there to take the change. Now if you've got an old computer and try to load enough of the newer generation of software, you'll soon discover that a computer without redundancy takes something of a performance hit. A really BIG performance hit.
As long as there is even the tiniest piece of spare capacity left, a computer works as fast as it can, really. The moment you push a computer beyond its efficient limits, it becomes exceptionally inefficient.
Efficiency + Redundancy = Being Effective
And here's the lesson I see in all this idle musing. I suspect that modern businesses have become so focused on efficiency, we've lost sight of the real goal, to be effective.
Being efficient is about method.
Being effective is about results.
I suggest that to be our most effective, either as an individual or an organisation, we need to build both efficiency and redundancy. If we ignore building redundancy into our lives and our organisations, it is only a matter of time before we become very ineffective.
So what do you think?
Is building redundancy an important part of building a business?
Is there an efficient way to build redundancy?
Can we even afford to have redundancy in our business in this modern digital age?
Or am I just barking up the wrong tree?