How to deal with lack of Bandwidth
This article was published on BusinessLine on Campus on June 22, 2015 http://www.bloncampus.com/columns/jargon-jungle/how-to-deal-with-the-lack-of-bandwidth/article7342809.ece
Bandwidth drops with age. Your bandwidth is at its peak when you are leaving your B-School. You are adept in switching from an assignment in supply chain management to human chain management in the institute’s canteen. You can flip a mammoth spreadsheet and compose your SOP effortlessly. You dazzle yourself and others with effortless navigation of tasks in your job. This doesn’t last long. You need to be aware of what happens with limited bandwidth.
The symptoms of limited bandwidth are:
Very short span of attention -typically it is same as the time it for an elevator to reach the seventh floor from ground. In more serious cases it is the same as the time to have two sips of tea.
A fixed stare, or fixed smile or scowl, or someone looking through you
Uncalled for praise: You hear words like ‘awesome’, ‘brilliant’, ‘you nailed it’
You hear this ‘Why not run this by xxxx?’
Many organizations and their top managers face limited bandwidth situations. They have even learned to live with it. You go up to your seniors with an idea for cutting down the ‘to market time’. ‘Brilliant’ they say, ‘but we don’t have bandwidth to handle it now”. You wonder -‘what’s the big deal. We surely can discuss it for fifteen minutes.’ On some occasions you get that uneasy feeling that what you have said has met with a pass-through response.
You may not remain an exception to the rule-of-bandwidth-half-life: Your bandwidth starts dropping exponentially and will reach its half-life within a year of you joining the corporate world or at the time of your first promotion, whichever is earlier. You start getting copies of emails to everyone. You are present in many meetings. You coordinate with two dozens of people. When the day ends you don’t have much to show for your labour but you are pretty sure of your hard work. Welcome to the club of ‘bandwidth deficit’ managers.
Your organization too finds itself to be in ‘bandwidth deficit’. It doesn’t have time for looking at signals from its markets. It has less time for its customers. It has less time for its employees. It continues to optimise what it was doing well. A capable manager or a specialist joins it with a lot of promise. After early flourish, they too get sucked in the bandwidth squeezing funnel.
If you join a start-up or start one, the funnel is bigger because you work for over sixteen hours every day. The half-life rule for a start up is -your bandwidth drops by half by the time you start selling successfully.
If you wish to defy the half-life rule of bandwidth, you will have to be on high alert. You will need to reserve your quality time for gathering information, processing it, and thinking though your options and actions. You will have to learn separating work and non-work. You will need to invest time in acquiring more knowledge and in learning new skills. You may get opportunities to take up activities like drastically improving work flows or processes. Seize them with both hands. Improved workflows lead to a more bandwidth.
If you are working in a start-up organization, you will need to formalize your workflows and give up freedom to deviate from them unless you wish to redesign them based on what your people have learned.
‘Limited bandwidth’ is a serious issue. It is smarter to prevent it than succumbing to it. Are you ready?