Triangles, Tangels and Blocks - Oh No! (Part Two: Tangles)

Tangles develop in companies that have been told to speed up, and are trying to move faster without first streamlining their focus. They form most often when vision is fuzzy, priorities unclear, ambiguity and uncertainty high, workload high. The greater the anxiety, the more tangled. People in Tangles are used to them, and don’t know that they are dysfunctional. Tangles will stop progress in its tracks.

How do you know if you're Tangled? Here are Five Signs:

1. Increased paperwork, whether the increase in paper moves the action along or not. 

2. Meetings are long, wandering, and often end with items tabled rather than action planned or taken. When action is planned, there is little if any meaningful followup.

3. People rush around looking very busy, almost frazzled. There is a common underlying agreement that this is constituting progress. People come to work earlier and leave later “to get it all done.” They feel overwhelmed and burned out. 

4. Priorities are unclear. People are unsure what the priorities are, or whose direction they should be following. Most are not clear about the vision for the future.

5. Communication is obscure. Rarely do people speak directly to others, there’s a lot of beating around the bush. Talking about it can substitute for doing it.

How to Break them Up:

Tangles can be treated by just one person who has to strength to call out the truth and start the untangling process. 

1. Get VP’s or regional directors together and figure out how priorities can be meshed, streamlined and funneled down in a humane manner. 

2. Examine all meetings for purpose and outcome. Stop those that aren’t productive or future-focused; develop an alternate was of connection. Make meetings more efficient that move action forward. 

3. Question every piece of paper. What purpose does it serve? Is there a better way to get the information out there? 

4. Simplify. Ask “why are we still doing this?” Have employees compete for prizes for naming the most useless and time-wasting activities.

5. Get action agreements at the end of every meeting and hold people’s feet to the fire. One company put up deadlines and commitments on a public bulletin board. Another hacked computers on the deadline date. 

6. Get bold. Speak up. Deal with people directly. Break up triangles. Set a clear vision, and make it visible. Remind people of it every day.

De-tangling the workplace not only speeds things up, morale zooms up too.