That's one of my work-mate's favourite sayings when he visits a client in dire need of a culture change.
The saying relates to inefficient work patterns, rather than the temptation around sharp weapons and your boss's jugular. For those of you who have worked in teams and even organisations where this 'too busy' culture flourishes, I can certainly commiserate - it's not fun.
Nowadays there are some pretty technical approaches available to help organisations 'sharpen the axe' and improve their processes. You can even go to university and study some of them for years.
Process improvement is not rocket science. Get a group of the right people into a room with a decent facilitator, and start talking. Ideas, debates, suggestions will all flow. Many of us are in this game of process improvement because of the buzz you get when teams realise a problem themselves then pitch solutions - it's a cool feeling.
Here are a couple of suggestions to help you climb out of a culture of ineffective 'busy-ness'.
1. It's as much 'heart' as it is science. That's why we seek buy in. People don't just buy on facts, they buy on emotion, trust and desire to succeed amongst their peers. Create a sense of urgency to get people on-board to fix this very real problem.
2. Processify process improvement. Compared to how we track, manage, improve other assets like say, our people, we're pretty laissez-faire with processes. Build permanent machinery around improvement to make it happen. Where is your central process repository? Which people in your organisation are responsible for process improvement - have actual names. How often does your 'process excellence group' meet to track targets? Annual staff performance reviews are compulsory. What about process reviews?
There are lots of other tips that work too, this is one of our favourite standing topics at our annual user conferences. Please leave a comment if you have ideas to share.