by Tom Emison, Vice President of Strategy and Innovation, Kraus-Anderson Construction Company
Crazy busy. It’s all around us in our personal and professional lives. Whether it’s the super busy manager who says “Sorry, boss, but I’m too busy to innovate,” or the friend you see taking hours to cut down a tree in his backyard who yells to you “I’m too busy cuttin’ the tree to sharpen the saw!” we all know people who are unproductively busy. Especially of late. Right? A lot of folks today are just crazy busy – brought on (in part) by the return of a stronger economy, innovations, and changing technologies. All of these trends, of course, are supposed to bring us more time, more efficiency, and more personal margin. More. I don’t know about you, but what I see is more car accidents caused by texting and driving, more stuck people and companies getting sideswiped by industry innovators, and more executives trying to solve their strategic riddles by just working more hours.
During times of great growth and change, more is not the best answer. Being crazy busy might feel exhilarating for awhile. But, over the long-haul, it leads to destinations we’d all like to avoid, like those I mentioned above, and let’s add physical illness, communication errors, safety mishaps, mental illness, addictions, divorce, and even suicide.
As leaders, it’s important we recognize crazy busy for what it is: the enemy of a well positioned and productive person and organization. Leadership requires us to look past the hysterics and heroics of crazy busy and see with clarity the underlying problems at work and place a price on the consequences – then opt not to pay that price. Not on your watch.
A few years ago, during an especially busy US Masters Swimming (“USMS”) training season, I was putting in tons of yardage in the pool, coupled with weight room sessions, cycling for cross-training, swim competitions at least twice/month, and big changes in my diet. I was doing two-a-day workouts three days/week and not taking any one day “off” completely. The year prior, I had a modest training and competition formula and I’d won big at national USMS swim meets. So, the next year, I figured that with even more training, more yardage in the pool, more of EVERYTHING, I’d compete even faster. I was crazy busy in search of gold in the water. But, during that crazy busy year, I developed a low-back injury, did not “taper” very well and actually competed slower. Over-training, just like crazy busy can feel like the right thing to do, provide a rush, and makes a pretty good impression to folks about how valuable you are. But, it can be injurious.
So, how do we address crazy busy when we are in the middle of it? After all, most of us agree that crazy busy is just not good. Problem is, we’re already there! What to do…when so…busy not able…complete thoughts?
In his book CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Dr. Edward Hallowell elaborates on how to do that. He talks about knowing your “C State” (calm, cool, and collected) and your “F State” (frenzied, frustrated, and flustered). He says half the battle is just knowing when you are about to go “F State” and don’t take the bait. Pause and breathe. I can relate, Doc. Thank you.
As Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at Kraus-Anderson Construction Company I have witnessed first-hand how the entire US construction industry has pretty much got crazy busy. After four solid years in our Great Recession, and now three+ years in recovery, our nation’s backlog of commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential construction volume has achieved hockey-stick status on the volume growth chart. During these times, smart contractors opt not to take the crazy busy bait and instead, build great relationships, improve business processes, and make smart investments. The best general building contractors (those in the best markets with the best clients, best employees, best business partners, etc.) preempt crazy busy by focusing on their core purpose, core values, and strategic business plan. They put in place the key people and processes before crazy busy scratches on the door. They have leaders who aspire to be the 10% who spend time on purposeful, committed, and strategic work, not the 90% out there who squander their time ineffectively. An example might help:
• Crazy Busy Contractor X: chasing work like crazy, bidding on projects with crazy low estimates, hiring like crazy, burning through projects with subcontractors and suppliers like crazy, and dropping very little if anything to their bottom line which is just …
• Strategic Busy Contractor Y: focused on core target markets, building relationships, not just projects, recruiting new talent thoughtfully, investing in leadership development, focused on Lean Construction and other smart and safe decisions.
During times of rapid growth and change, yup, we all get busy. But, by slowing down for just a collective moment and focusing on the right priorities, we can be busy on the right initiatives be they personal, professional, or corporate. When it comes to the physical spaces we help co-create with our development partners, architects, engineers, planners, and project partners, we seek relationships and outcomes that are strategic busy. Please tell me that doesn’t sound, well, crazy.
Tom Emison accepted his position as Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at Kraus-Anderson Construction Company October 1, 2015. He is a 20+ year veteran strategic business planning and organizational leadership in the US construction industry. This is the first in a series of blogs devoted to business strategy and innovation.