Virtual Teams

Information overload – dealing with the information junkie

As part of our Speed Lead “Save a day a week” program we are focusing with some of our clients on specific reductions in meetings, conference calls and emails – for many people in matrix and other complex companies (and some simpler ones) this consumes 40-50% of their time and they tell us that over 50% of this is unnecessary.

In these sessions the majority of people are enthusiastic but it is not unusual to find one member of a team who disagrees, one person in a West Coast USA software team told me: “Yes, I get 250 emails per day but I like the feeling of being involved and knowing what is going on”. In discussion it was clear that she was genuine about this and thought dealing with these 60,000 e,ails per year was a good use of her time.

From the rolled eyes of her colleagues as she spoke it was also clear that this was having an impact on the rest of them that they did not appreciate.

The other members of the team thought that over 50% of the emails they received doing similar jobs were unnecessary, so it seemed that this was a genuine difference in both tolerance for and interest in detail.

But is this OK? It might be interesting for the individual but do we as managers (and shareholders) choose to indulge and finance this level of interest?

It’s a tough one, at one level the individual is bearing the cost of processing all this information “for interest only”, but it is usually on the company’s time!

Much more serious is when the information junkie is a manger (particularly a senior one) as their capacity and motivation to consume and generate information can have a very negative effect on their people who also need to stay fully informed in case they are asked questions.

Teams with managers like this can expend large amounts of time and resources making sure they are ready for the detailed questions they know will come.

It is up to all of us to give these individuals feedback, often they do not realize the impact they are having on their colleagues,

Have you ever worked with or for an information junkie?

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