At the Speed of Nothing

I was at the Gordon Biersch restaurant in the San Jose Airport getting lunch before my flight home. Behind the bar the bartender was flying around, telling people he’d be with them in a minute, grabbing stuff off the bar, filling beers, and working the register. He was moving fast and clearly in the weeds. What caught my attention was it wasn’t very busy. Despite his gyrations and sense or urgency, there wasn’t much going on. Even though is wasn’t very busy, people were waiting a long time, me included, to place their orders, for their food or to check out. He was over working the environment and failing at it. He was working at the speed of nothing.

I see this a lot in business; people, teams and leadership running around with a sense of urgency yet, little is getting done. These environments do little for the company or the employees. Stress, anxiety, are created with little return for the business. Don’t confuse being busy with being productive.

Effort does little without results. Bureaucratic organizations live in this world. Focusing on effort allows everyone to be percieved as being successful without having to do anything. It gives failure an out.

Working at the speed of nothing is a waste. The ideas, energy, and effort wasted on nothing could have been used on something and that’s too bad.

Are you getting things done, or are you working at the speed of nothing?

I finally did get my lunch. The bartender never slowed down. What a waste.

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