Decluttering the Work Environment

I’m one of those few people who actually enjoy cleaning! I like the feeling of turning messiness into spaces that are neat, clean, and orderly. If you look in my closet you’ll notice that my clothes are organized by categories, such as formal, business, and casual wear. Within each category they are then organized by color and length. I guess you could say that I like household systems that are well thought out, run with efficiency, and therefore offer a certain amount of predictability. So, perhaps it’s not surprising that I became an “organizational” specialist.

There are some similarities when it comes to housekeeping, be it at home or in the workplace – though workplace “messes” are a lot more challenging to clean up! The typical messes that need to be cleaned up in work environments are usually created by unskillful behaviors; lack of clarity with respect to roles, accountabilities, and authority; or poorly designed systems. In order to do a good job “cleaning things up,” it’s important to have a good cleaning “solution” and the right tools to do the job. Any good organizational development specialist will have a tool box with various instruments (you can also think in terms of skill sets as tools) to create a better working environment. These tools can include, but are not limited to: the ability to develop appropriate assessment questionnaires, group facilitation, knowledge and expertise in human dynamics, understanding of systems issues and workflow efficiencies, ability to identify solutions to move teams forward, and the talent to effectively mediate conflicts.

When I get a call from a client about a particular “messy” situation at work, I need to find out how big the mess is and whether it’s contained or spilling over. I want to know how toxic the situation is and the cost that this particular “mess” is having on the organization in terms of lost productivity, poor morale, or increased risk for potential law suits. I need to ascertain the situation so I can determine what tools and skill sets are needed to get the job done and prevent the mess from reoccurring.

Fortunately, over the course of my career of working in a business psychology firm, I’ve had the opportunity to create a robust tool kit! My colleagues and I have helped clean up some substantial messes in the workplace. You know…the kind of messes that when you first learn about the situation – all the intricate details and how pervasive it is – the task of cleaning it up is seemingly impossible. And yet, with the right tools in hand and a plan for action, it’s amazing what can be done to remove the obstacles and clutter that bog people down at work. The end result is a creating a work environment that is “clean;” meaning people are freed up psychologically and emotionally so they can focus on their work and can then do their best within a well designed system.

Wouldn’t you know, I get the same deeply satisfying feeling and sense of pride when I work with a client and see that where there was once a huge mess, the work environment is organized and efficient as I do in a more traditional sense of housekeeping. Now, if only I could get my six year old son to embrace the fine art of housekeeping that comes from creating a clean space…

Marcia Kent
President, BizPsych

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