Mar 25 2021

Addicted to Ruthless Efficiency

Last week I wrote about The Tension That Will Come With the Future of Work.  No one knows what the post-pandemic world of office vs. remote work will look like, but there are going to be some clear differences between how people will respond to being in offices or not being offices going forward.  As I said in that post, I think the natural, gravitational pull for senior people will be to do more remote work, because of a combination of their commutes, their personal time, their work setups at home, and their level of seniority…but with the possible exception of engineers, “all remote” may actually not be in the best interest of a number of junior or more introverted team members.

Two things popped up in the last few days that are making it clear to me that there’s another issue all of us — whether you’re a CEO or CXO or an entry level employee — will face.  We’ve become much more efficient in how we do our jobs and run our lives.  In my case, I’ll go ahead and say it — I’m addicted to the efficiency and scarcity of social interactions in my work life now in a way that I’m going to find hard to unwind, so I’m calling it “ruthless efficiency.”

Example 1 is a time-based example.  I’ve been doing virtually all client-related meetings, whether sales calls or customer success calls, in 30 minutes over Zoom or equivalent for a year now.  Sometimes I even get one done in 15 minutes.  Very, very rarely, I’ll book one for an hour.

One of my Bolster colleagues who lives not too far away in Connecticut is having drinks with a very important potential partner one night next week as the temperatures outside warm up here in the northeast.  She invited me to join — and really, I should join.  But then “ruthless efficiency math” sets into my thinking.  Instead of a 30 zoom, this will take me three hours – an hour drive each way plus the meeting.  Maybe I get lucky and I can do a call or two from the car, but is the meeting really worth 4-6x the amount of time just so I can be in person?  Even though this is the kind of thing I would have done without hesitation a year ago…that calculus is really hard to make from where I sit today.

Example 2 is an expense-based example.  We have spent basically $0 for a year on T&E.  Now we are planning some kind of a multi-day team meeting a few weeks from now around the 1-year anniversary of the company to work on planning for the next couple quarters.  The quarterly offsite, including travel, hotels, etc., has been a deeply-ingrained part of my leadership Operating System for 20-25 years now.  OF COURSE we should do this meeting in person and offsite if the public health environment allows it and people are comfortable.  But then “ruthless efficiency math” sets into my thinking.  What’s this meeting going to cost?  $10,000?  Depends where we do it and how many team members come since we have people in multiple cities.  But YIKES, that’s a lot of money.  We are a STARTUP.  Shouldn’t we use money like that for some BETTER purpose?

Forget the big things.  I think we all realize that we don’t have to hop on a plane now and do a day trip to the other coast or Europe or Asia for a couple meetings unless those meetings are do-or-die meetings.  It’s these little things that will be tough to readjust now that we’ve all gotten used to having hours upon hours, and dollars upon dollars, back on our calendars and balance sheets because we’ve gotten addicted to the amazing, and yet somewhat ruthless efficiency of the knowledge worker, pandemic, work from anywhere, get it done in 30 minutes on a screen way of life.