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The Business Impact Of Fatigue

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End-of-year exhaustion can impact the performance of the entire organization. Here's why you should hit pause, and then reset.

Let’s face it: by the end of the calendar year, many of us are tired. The rapid push to meet year-end objectives. Festivities or special functions to honor people, holidays, community. Preparations to greet friends and family—and more. The demands on our physical and mental capacity are particularly acute at year-end.

No matter where you are in your strategic journey, there’s no doubt that you’ve covered a lot of ground in the last year. Whether the results are good or need improvement, the often-frenetic pace toward your vision can be exhausting. This weakens your ability to take on something new—or simply get on with the task at hand.

The business impact of fatigue goes beyond individuals. Fatigue — the combination of exhaustion and weakness — affects the performance of the entire organization. (This fact likely explains why the topic surfaced in my conversation with Anthony C. Taylor on a 2022 Strategy & Leadership podcast; aired first in mid-2022, the episode remains relevant today, particularly this clip.)

Hit pause before reset.

The executives I advise always want to accelerate progress. This requires energy, precisely the opposite of fatigue. Not only consuming energy, fatigue also creates a weakness in the business that may go unnoticed. Identifying possible weakness is one of the reasons behind scheduled maintenance. During regular upkeep, experts examine how well all the parts are functioning and retool as needed to avoid a major breakdown.

It’s not only equipment or machines that benefit from downtime. People perform better when they take time to refresh — both mentally and physically. At Amazon and other big retailers and distributors/shippers, the end of year crush — “peak” — may cause fatigue. The same is typical of accountants during tax season each year. It’s relatively easy to manage this sort of cyclical or episodic fatigue. Skilled executives hit pause before reset; they schedule time off and/or allow more space (e.g. meeting-free days) immediately following the crunch period.

Notably, however, it’s also hard to shift immediately from one multi-year strategic initiative to the next one. In my experience as both executive and advisor, the more intense the effort, the more critical it becomes to take a breath. Turning the page on the calendar offers an excellent opportunity to do just that — both for individuals and the organization.

The perfect time to take stock of resources.

No matter where you are in your strategic journey, you need a solid understanding of the resources you have and their fitness to tackle what comes next. Your business environment and your people have changed since the start of your strategic journey – or when you set goals in January. This makes closing out the year the perfect time to take stock of resources. The extent of the change informs whether you simply raise the bar in its present context or chart an entirely new course to achieve objectives.

Looking ahead to the new year, evaluate the readiness of your business to tackle new challenges and inspire innovation. (See page 255 of my book, Charting the Course, which includes a Readiness Assessment Guide.) Then, put this into the context of your business environment. For example, consider:

• How well equipped are you to handle the next journey?

• To what extent do you have sufficient capacity and flexibility – financial, staff, operating – to pursue and achieve objectives?

• What opportunities, threats, or circumstances may compel you to quickly set a new destination (vision)?

• In what ways are you prepared to anticipate, mitigate, and manage the impact of these external shifts?

This kind of simple, reflective process has the added benefit of creating downtime. A time and space that is both productive and refreshing. Further, your answers inform the decisions and actions needed to get where you want to go. It becomes another tool to enhance strategic agility for individuals and teams.

The business impact of fatigue extends to all parts of the business. Closing out the year, savvy CEOs allow time to breathe and take stock of resources. They begin the new year knowing what investments they’ll make to replenish and nourish the business. They address the business impact of fatigue to inspire innovation and accelerate performance.


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