The RPMs of Capacity Management

Jul 20, 2023 5 Min Read
Stop the Gluttony of Overload to Unleash Excellence

Most executive teams are gluttonous at the buffet when it comes to imagining—and then planning—all they will do in the coming year. Almost as soon as the efforts get underway, folks get overloaded. Then the senior leaders bring in consultants (like us) to help them cut, curb, shrink, and skinny down that list of commitments.

How wonderful would it be if this “capacity management” lens was brought to bear before and during the planning period, keeping an eye on capacity as initiatives and dream projects were considered? But that’s not what happens. There are so many good ideas for the growth, expansion, and evolution of products that it’s easy to say yes, yes, yes to every desire.

For a short time, this insatiability for more overtook even us at the Juliet Funt Group. During the book launch period for A Minute to Think, it was very hard to say no to opportunities. It was my first book, and I wanted to go all in. But by the end of 2021, after a stream of enthusiastic yeses to almost everything, our team was a little crispy. So, we did one of my favorite interventions in the history of our company: “The Year of No New Things.” We just decided to stop. And it was glorious.

Of course, we continued to take on new clients, but we built no new products, we hired no new staff, and we explored no new technology for all of 2022. We went deep on the things we already had. It was a bold choice that worked well for a boutique firm, and this approach may not be a fit for every company, but the relief we felt does speak to something universal: when you do fewer things, the quality of work and the joy of work flourish.

An R-P-M Framework for Saying Yes to the Right Thing

Long before you get to exciting new things, you need to make room for them by stripping away the unnecessary: simplify, simplify, simplify, and then manage future capacity with eyes wide open.

The first move is to separate high-value work from low-value work. That means removing “weight from the backpack” of workers to address waste—the emails, meetings, decks, and reports that clog up the workflow and create organizational drag. (Our company has a unique quantification process that we use with our clients to quantify the cost of low-value work that shows a cost of a million dollars annually in lost talent time for every 50 people at the average company.) Then you can say yes and no to the right things—and manage them well—to take you where you want to go.

Here’s a way to frame it in your mind: prioritize the Rs, cut the Ps, and manage the Ms.

The 4 Rs of High-Value Work: When evaluating tasks, it is essential to prioritize the following types of activity:

  1. Revenue: The financial aspect of work. Money-generating activities and projects that contribute to the financial success of the organization.
  2. Reputation: The brand image and perception of the organization. Tasks that enhance reputation, including marketing efforts and activities that positively shape the organization’s image.
  3. Reward: The intrinsic motivation and fulfillment derived from meaningful work. Tasks that provide a sense of purpose and joy, fostering a positive work environment.
  4. Readiness: Being prepared for future challenges. Systems, training, standard operating procedures, and preparations ensure the organization is primed to adapt and respond to its demands effectively.

The 4 Ps of Low-Value Work: In contrast, low-value work can be identified through the following (and then targeted for elimination):

  1. Panicking: Hasty and irrational decision-making driven by anxiety and fear. Tasks that arise from an agitated state rather than measured and strategic actions.
  2. Pandering: Fulfilling illogical demands that do not contribute significantly to progress. Tasks driven solely by the desires of senior management without a clear business rationale.
  3. Procedure: Excessive bureaucracy and red tape that hinder productivity. Tasks that are part of cumbersome procedures and protocols that work against streamlined and efficient workflows.
  4. Padding: Unnecessary extras that add bulk and lost effort. Tasks that involve inviting irrelevant participants to meetings, drowning people in digital communication, or requesting excessive reports or information.

Work through the 4 Rs and the 4 Ps first.

But what do you do when you have eliminated all the waste you can and you are still overloaded, when you’ve gone through your meetings and culled them as possible, when you’ve poured through your decks and reports editing out the fat, and when you’ve addressed the habitual over-communicating that weighs down so many great teams? What do you do when you stand in your office or before your calendar and honestly look at your task list, saying, “This is all truly business-critical stuff, but I’m going to fall over from the pace and pressure.” What do you do then?

The 4 Ms of Capacity Management: When efforts to eliminate waste and low-value work provide insufficient relief, executives must consider interventions within the categories of the 4 Ms.

  1.  Manpower: They can hire or assign additional personnel and distribute the workload effectively.
  2. Money: They can invest more resources to simplify tasks or adjust revenue goals for sustainable progress.
  3. Months: They can extend project timelines to alleviate the burden on the team and promote quality outcomes.
  4. Magnitude: They can scale down the scope or expectations of projects to maintain manageable workloads.

There is no getting around the capacity built into an organization. The time-money-resources equation doesn’t vanish with the arrival of Zoom meetings or AI tools or the hiring of a new rainmaker. Companies exist because of their people, and when we overlook overload or put blinders on it, our company teams will suffer the consequences.

Stop thinking only in terms of the individual productivity of your people. Think in terms of capacity management. At every stage of planning, review, and process improvement, aim to eliminate low-value work, elevate high-value work, simplify and streamline, and then manage to align the possible with the people you lead. Then you’ll unlock the full potential of your organization and cultivate a culture of excellence.

This article was also published on Juliet Funt's LinkedIn

Edited by: Irfan Razali

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Juliet Funt is the founder and CEO at JFG (Juliet Funt Group), which is a consulting and training firm built upon the popular teaching of CEO Juliet Funt, author of A Minute to Think.
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