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Improve your odds of success with organization

June 29, 2018
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A place for everything and everything in its place. So simple and so important yet often not followed.

Organizations struggle with efficiency. The thief of time is things not being in their place. I talked to a former employee, Brad, who I really liked, a few years ago. I asked Brad what he liked and disliked about working with me. He said that the files that I kept in my office drove the employees crazy. They wasted time looking for files. I have always been a high-energy person. Energy is good until it fouls up processes.

One of my great irritations at home is the difficulty in making coffee. As we age and become forgetful, putting the right things in the right place becomes a challenge. Try making coffee if any piece is missing. You need the coffee maker, the pot, the filter, the coffee, the cord and the basket. Any missing piece and you have to drink what they call instant coffee. They call it coffee, but I think it may be something else. Guano comes to mind.

Electrical cords are a problem. Every printer, computer, telephone, etc., has its own cord. Some people, for some unknown reason, want to keep the cords in one place and the equipment in another. So, out of that knot of various cords, which one do you need? If you can't match them up, maybe it's not there. Maybe it is and you missed it. Who knows?

To surgeons, airplane mechanics and most Dutch people, where things are placed is critical. There are jobs in which something being misplaced can be fatal. A pilot from the Vietnam War told me a mechanic had a nervous breakdown. The pilot could not understand why, so he went to see him. The mechanic explained if he made a mistake, the pilot could be injured, captured or killed. He could not take the pressure. The surgeon issue is obvious. The Dutch philosophy of organization made the Netherlands one of the most powerful trading nations in the world in the 16th and 17th centuries. You should see my barn since my Dutch son-in-law became involved in organizing it. It is difficult for me because I am used to searching all over for things. Now, it is exactly where it should be. Kind of takes the adventure out of it.

There is, of course, always another side to an argument or concept. Throughout my self-employed career, it was common for people from large firms to express their envy for my freedom. One CPA from a national firm expressed his frustration with all the red tape. He told me several funny stories about how he defied the rules. He bought his own pencils and office supplies so that he didn’t have to fill out a requisition. He mocked his boss about it. Wonder if he ever made partner?

I doubt it.

The rules of the right items in the right place also apply to people. Placing an introvert in a sales job or an ADD sufferer in accounting is like putting the saw where the hammer goes and vice versa. It may be a really good hammer, but it won't cut wood, and no matter how good a saw you have, it won't pound nails. Putting the right people in the right job will get better results and make for a happier workplace. That rule also applies to the business owner. If you have an artist’s temperament, you probably won't be happy running a manufacturing plant.

We watched the movie "Shackleton" last week. He was an Antarctic explorer who in 1914 went to explore the South Pole. Just think of the damage and loss of life had they not been organized. The ship was crushed by ice and sunk. All 18 explorers survived the harrowing walk to the edge of the ice, sailing 800 miles to a whaling station and safety. Shackleton became an international hero. If his ship’s captain or one of the crew had skipped a crucial supply, then all would have died and you would never have the books and movies about the events leading to their safe return. Every cog in the system must function or everything is at risk.   

Respect organization and strive for it. If you lack that skill, hire it. No matter how great the idea or how hard you work if you are not organized, you will fail or substantially reduce your chances of success. 

Paul Hense is the retired president of local accounting firm Hense & Associates and past chairman of the Small Business Association of Michigan.

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