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Are "Burning Hassles" Melting Your Morale and 
Pulverizing Your Productivity?

Your organization may be experiencing "burning hassles" -- the sometimes hidden and sometimes obvious obstacles and sinkholes that keep people from performing ideally. This article explains how to recognize situations in which hassles may be dissolving productivity, morale, and profitability like corrosive acid.

Whether you're a corporate CEO, small business owner, manager, supervisor, staff member, consultant, or public servant, I'll bet you feel a strong, compelling desire to increase your company's (or your clients') effectiveness, reputation, and bottom line.

Yet somewhere under the radar, your organization may be experiencing "burning hassles" -- the sometimes hidden and sometimes obvious obstacles and sinkholes that keep people from performing ideally. Such hassles can dissolve productivity, morale, and profitability like corrosive acid.

You already may be aware of certain changes you'd like to see that would enhance any positive conditions, or correct any negative situations that are holding people back. This article offers four short case study examples (of fictitious companies) that suggest how to navigate through four key areas to improve organizational health.


Case Study Example #1: Meetings and Decision Making


It's 10:00 Wednesday morning, and the three Tricoh Consulting associates are experiencing a typical "headache" meeting at their client's site. As has happened at many of their prior conferences, the donuts and coffee have barely arrived when a disjointed scene unfolds. A key decision-maker is running late. No one is quite sure why, or what to do in the meantime.

Four of the clients start side conversations, and the remaining client fires off a series of concerns. The Tricoh associates try to explain that they can't answer the concerns until the entire group discusses the logistics for the project.

The questioner abruptly interrupts with, "Well, we've got to get rolling on this, and it's your job to make it happen. Sorry, but I'm already late for another meeting! You all figure it out and let me know what happens!"

As he dashes out of the room, the associates notice that it's only 10:22 and this meeting -- like so many others -- has already disintegrated.

Bottom line: Not only are badly planned and executed meetings a financial drain -- they also have the potential to make the participants feel perpetually frustrated and unproductive. Yet making simple changes to protocols for running and recording the outcomes of meetings can shift the dynamics into a highly effective mode.


Case Study Example #2: Productivity and Effectiveness


No sooner has the new management team of the Acme Insurance Claims Dept. finished reviewing the customer complaint logs from the last six months than they know they are in trouble!

The most frequent customer complaint is the agonizingly long claim processing time. Customers likewise gripe about confusing instructions on the claims and the complex process for submitting them.

Everyone has been putting in long hours, and overtime has soared. So what prescription should the Claims Department follow? Should they try to make improvements or just get out a bulldozer and flatten the procedures that have created the red tape, even if some procedural steps are required by law?

Acme also has an intimidating management style. Managers sometimes ask for input, but the daring employees who bring up issues feel they receive "shoot the messenger" treatment. As a result, honest communication is rare.

Bottom line: People can spend endless hours of precious time fighting battles with hassles that they might not ever win. Further, if management says one thing but does another, it's sending mixed signals, and employees are unlikely to put forth their best effort. The remedies include systematically removing the hurdles and aligning consequences in the organization.


Case Study Example #3: Project and Risk Management


Purple Star Software's principal, Barbara M., is reluctantly realizing that both she and her primary client (her former employer, Halfdome Engineering) are in deep trouble.

Purple Star and Halfdome had jointly agreed to complete a difficult project for one of Halfdome's clients, one with many complex features, at a high level of quality, for a low budget, on a very short schedule. And, none of the parties (not even the client) truly understood the project's complexity until it was too late.

Always worried about losing its client, Halfdome let "scope creep" run rampant, and kept agreeing to add complicated functionality to the product without:

-- Estimating the complexity

-- Updating the contract

-- Phasing in the features over time, or

-- Testing and delivering the system in stages

The clients cut off the project after seeing that Halfdome's team couldn't get the system to work. They are unlikely to pay for most of the effort performed, much to Barbara's frustration!

Bottom line: When organizations and their contractors face ongoing challenges with project budgets, schedules, quality, or features, they can avoid many of these hassles on future projects by proactively identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks.


Case Study Example #4: Product and Service Value


TryHard Enterprises kicked off the new millennium with an all-day catered event for its employees, vendors, and contractors. This jubilant occasion marked TryHard's twelfth anniversary in the widget-manufacturing world.

TryHard was adding more and more fancy features to its products as it raced to stay ahead of the competition. All had been going well for several years. After doubling its employees, increasing its benefits, and expanding its product lines, things looked better than ever!

That was then. This is today -- a few short years later: TryHard's bubble has burst. Currently, one whole section of its new warehouse is dedicated to storing returned products from unhappy customers.

Customer Support continuously fields calls from the frustrated buyers who can't figure out how to install, set up, or use the latest product line.

Reviews in the industrial news are horrible, citing safety issues, quality problems, and complex, failure-prone designs as the reasons for the company's downfall.

Bottom line: When consumers aren't happy with their experiences, they won't become loyal customers. The majority will complain loudly to others and quietly take their business elsewhere. Remedies for these hassles include proactive customer experience design.

In conclusion, each one of these situations could end happily if the management and staff worked together to aggressively identify and remove burning hassles. Whether the hassles affect employees or customersScience Articles, eliminating them persistently will restore and expand the well being of the enterprise.

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Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the author of the award-winning "Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance" program. She helps people "discover and recover" the profits their businesses may be losing every day through overlooked performance potential. To sign up for more free tips, visit her site at

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