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Organize for Efficiency

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Good organization is simply another name for group efficiency. Since an essential part of your management responsibilities is to make sure that your people are working at peak effectiveness, consider these questions:

  1. Do you have too many people reporting to you? Some experts maintain that the optimum number of employees per manager is between five and nine. Rules of thumb are extremely handy, but broader spans of control are being used in today's organizations. For example, trainees or inexperienced employees obviously require more supervision than the same number of experienced and capable employees.
  2. Do you delegate authority along with responsibility? When you give an employee an assignment, make sure your instructions are clear. Explain exactly what he or she is to do and how much authority goes with the assignment. This is particularly true when you are giving assignments to a group. The group leader must understand his responsibilities, and other persons in the unit should know that he is in charge.
  3. Do you check on overlap? Two people trying to do the same job is a certain sign of poor organization.
  4. Do you study specific activities? The bigger the operation, the more complex it becomes. That's why the alert manager makes it clear to employees exactly who is responsible for what. This prevents gaps in operation—the kind where nobody has been assigned a particular job and consequently it doesn't get done.
  5. Do you avoid overload? There is a tendency to overuse a capable worker. A wise manager knows that if you give even the best subordinate responsibility for too many jobs and too many details, efficiency is bound to suffer.
  6. Do you review job assignments with employees? Good managers take nothing for granted. Nor do they assume that employees understand their assignments simply because they ask no questions. The effective manager periodically reviews the work of all employees to make sure that employee and manager have the same understanding of each job.
  7. Have you defined lines of authority? Too many chiefs are worse than too few Indians. The employee who is not certain to whom he reports is never sure of what is expected of him.
  8. Do you observe patterns of organization? The manager who countermands orders, or issues new assignments without informing employees, destroys efficiency. In emergencies it may be necessary to step in and take charge. However, the experienced manager does not ignore lines of authority in his rush to get the job done.
  9. Are employee responsibilities properly related? If you give an employee a hodgepodge of unrelated assignments, you probably will not get optimum performance. Coordination is a function of management. In general, it refers to the job of ensuring that the work of one employee contributes to, rather than conflicts or overlaps with, another individual. The essence of homogeneous assignments is that functions required for a particular task should be grouped according to their relation to one another.
  10. Do you periodically analyze the organization? Jobs change. The abilities of people improve or decline. An effective organization today may be totally inadequate to meet tomorrow's needs. The forward looking manager constantly studies the functioning of his organization so that he can apply quick remedies when he detects weaknesses.

The Letter Everyone Likes to Receive
The most welcome letter of all: the one the recipient never expected to receive! Few gestures do so much to cement good will as the writing of a “keep-in-touch” letter, the letter with no purpose other than letting somebody know you are thinking of him or her. Occasions for such communications are many and varied. Some ideas:

Congratulations. On a promotion... a business or professional success... a birthday or anniversary...an outstanding achievement by a family member...a new home.

Thank you. For a favor. For a suggestion. For new business. For a helpful criticism.

Offer a suggestion. You've come across a capable carpenter; Bob Smith mentioned that he's looking for one. Or you know where Myrna Jones can pick up a good used car. Or you've heard of a job opening that sounds ideal for Sam Carter. In each case, a letter from you could represent a king-size favor for someone. Why not write it?

Pass along news. About business opportunities...competitive activity...new products or techniques...a change in company policies...mutual friends.

Managing for Better Morale
Good employee morale and esprit de corps depends on many things beside money. In several surveys, workers themselves have rated these considerations higher than cash: job security, appreciation, personal interest in them, and opportunity for advancement, challenging work.

To improve the morale of your people, try the following.

Explain management 
decisions. Employees don't always see the sense in new rules and regulations. Your job: clarify the rationale behind them. Result: understanding and, therefore, usually acceptance.

Invite their suggestions for improvements. It will not only give them a sense of participation above and beyond their usual roles, but may gain some valuable ideas.

Promote from within whenever possible. Nothing destroys morale like seeing the next rung of the ladder occupied by an outsider.

Respect differences of opinion. 
Don't take an employee's challenge of your idea as a personal affront. He may know something you don't and help you avoid committing a world-class blunder.

Give public appreciation for work well done. Few things massage a worker's ego like being praised in front of his peers. If one of your people excels in his job, don't keep it a secret. There are ways of praising without arousing jealousy or resentment in others.

Rx for Procrastination
If you surveyed any 10, 100, or 1000 people as to their favorite day of the week, the hands down winner would undoubtedly be—tomorrow. That's when that big project will be started, the old one finished, the solution to a problem found, the important decision made.

To one degree or another, we are all guilty of procrastination. We're not “in the mood,” we lack the necessary information that will enable us to act, there's a deskful of detail work to be attended to, Jack—who is crucial to the job—is out ill, or traveling, or unavailable for some reason or other, etc. Before you know it, presto! Tomorrow has turned into yesterday.

The remedy? Two tablespoons of self-discipline and a gallon of perseverance. Some guidelines to counter procrastination:

  • Fight one enemy at a time. Pick one area where procrastination plagues you—and conquer it. It may be a predisposition to put off beginning a job . . . or answering correspondence . . . or turning down requests for your help. Whatever it is, change it. If you find yourself searching for excuses for not making decisions, for example, force yourself to make them quickly. If you hate answering letters, drive yourself to replying to just one; each succeeding one will seem a bit less formidable, and with every letter answered, you will build the momentum necessary to answer them all.
  • Focus on one problem at time. Learn to compartmentalize your jobs. Pretend for the time being that all you have to do is job A. Get it done and confront job B with the same single-mindedness.
  • Don't duck the most difficult problems. That just insures the hardest part will be left when you're most tired. Get the big one done and it's downhill from them on.
  • Don't be paralyzed by a quest for perfection. If you put everything off until you've checked with 20 people and subjected it to a microscopic inspection, you'll get little, or nothing, done.

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