April 01, 2010

The Acceleration Trap

Tina Brown dropped by Morning Edition this morning and provided her recommendation for some interesting reads. One of the articles was definitely worth reading as it talked about what is happening to more of us who are working these days.

Recently, the Harvard Business Review published The Acceleration Trap, a report about how too many companies have gone overboard in trying to get more with less.

Faced with intense market pressures, corporations often take on more than they can handle: They increase the number and speed of their activities, raise performance goals, shorten innovation cycles, and introduce new management technologies or organizational systems. For a while, they succeed brilliantly, but too often the CEO tries to make this furious pace the new normal. What began as an exceptional burst of achievement becomes chronic overloading, with dire consequences. Not only does the frenetic pace sap employee motivation, but the company's focus is scattered in various directions, which can confuse customers and threaten the brand.

Realizing something is amiss, leaders frequently try to fight the symptoms instead of the cause. Interpreting employees' lack of motivation as laziness or unjustified protest, for example, they increase the pressure, only making matters worse. Exhaustion and resignation begin to blanket the company, and the best employees defect.

We call this phenomenon the acceleration trap. It harms the company on many levels--over-accelerated firms fare worse than their peers on performance, efficiency, employee productivity, and retention, among other measures, our research shows. The problem is pervasive, especially in the current environment of 24/7 accessibility and cost cutting. Half of 92 companies we investigated in 2009 were affected by the trap in one way or another--and most were unaware of the fact.

Reading this piece, I saw many of the issues that seem to be endemic in my company. One of my particular gripes is this:

Most companies do not celebrate ends. They think the completion of a project is a reward in itself. It isn't. Achievements and outstanding effort deserve acknowledgment. Take a moment to reflect and feel proud of accomplishments. These moments are rare, and too often leaders fail to savor them but rather rush full-speed ahead into the next tunnel.

Today, it seems like that the only thanks for major releases is an email from the senior management saying nice job. And then its on to the next project and the next and the next. Forget the parties. There isn't even a break. No chance to change anything. Just do more.

So now I'm trying to figure out whether if I gave this article to my boss it would make a difference. It definitely describes life at work these days. And the major reason my blogging has become almost non-existent. It's hard to find time to sleep, much less time to think.

Read it and see if you recognize this pattern yourself.

Posted by Mary at April 1, 2010 10:50 PM | Recommended Reading | Technorati links |


This article provide a good information about Acceleration Trap and i would like to say thanks to the author for writing this article.

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Posted by: zukario at April 4, 2010 07:35 AM

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Posted by: ccoaler at April 5, 2010 11:25 AM

My company is facing the exact same problem. Alas, I don't think my boss would take too kindly to seeing this article at all!

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Posted by: Sarah at April 11, 2010 02:38 PM

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Posted by: SmithJ at May 20, 2010 11:08 AM