How About the Sometimes-On Organization?

Lena West, xynoMedia
A recent issue of Microsoft’s Momentum newsletter touts the benefits of the ‘always-on organization’. You know…wi-fi, instant messaging, SMS, mobile computing, etc? There IS something to be said for ease of communication, instant accessibility and an immediate, correct answer. But, as far back as 2004, in an interview with Oracle’s Profit Magazine, I’ve been warning that the always-on circuitry is about to overload.
I have learned to be very leery of extremes. Words like always and never – especially as relates to technology – set off little LED warning lights for me.
I’m all about technology and helping organizations leverage it for growth but not at the expense of the company’s culture. If you’re wondering how instant messaging or wi-fi can trash your company’s culture, here’s what I mean:
By now, we all know that incoming email ‘dings’ are equally as distracting as viral videos and JibJab parodies. So, what did all the time management gurus tell us to do? Log out of email – or at least disable audible and visual alerts. They told us that we should manage technology – as opposed to it managing us. We were warned that we can’t manage time, we can only manage ourselves and our energy. And, for the most part, they were right. People started listening to the experts and productivity rates increased…all was well in Corporateville…until the concept of running an always-on organization became de rigeur – and (gasp!) cool.
Skype messages fly back and forth at all hours of the night (or morning). Instant messaging barges in on web conferencing meetings. Super-rapid text messaging replaces a quick phone call. I used to have TWO cell phones for crying outloud! Eventually, you (and your team!) will get sick of it all. There’s only so much bell ringing, screen flashing and equipment vibrating a person can take.
And, when I got fed up with being an endentured servant to two cell phones, I swung the corrective pendulum too far in the opposite direction and had no cell phone at all for over two years. I’m not a fan of always-on but, always-off doesn’t work either.
Businesses need to embrace balance – or as my business coach says – integration. If you’re going to be logged into your instant messenger, log out of email – or turn off the cell phone. Encourage your team to do the same. Show them that you value a SANE team more than an always-on team.
Can I get a vote for sometimes-on anyone?

P.S. In the spirit of being sometimes-on, I was recently interviewed by Entrepreneur Magazine. Check it out. (scroll down)