There’s a story making the rounds that a manager who couldn’t use his concert tickets for Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony gave them to his work study management executive–in non-jargon, the efficiency expert–and received the following report after the performance:

1. For considerable periods, the four oboe players had nothing to do. Their number should be reduced , and their work spread over the whole orchestra.

2. Forty violins were playing identical notes. This seems unnecessary duplication, and this section should be drastically cut. If a larger volume of sound is required, this could be achieved through an electronic amplifier.

3. Much effort was absorbed in the playing of demi/semi quavers. This seems an excessive refinement, and it is recommended that all notes be rounded to the nearest semi-quaver. If this were done, it should be possible to use trainees and lower-grade operators.

4. No useful purpose is served by repeating with horns the passage that has already been handled by the strings. If all such redundant passages were eliminated, the concert could be reduced to twenty minutes. If Schubert had attended to these matters, he probably would have been able to finish his symphony after all.

Efficiency achieved at the expense of creativity is counterproductive. Don’t equate activity with efficiency. You are paying your key people to see the big picture. Don’t let them get bogged down in a lot of meaningless meetings and paper shuffling. Announce a Friday afternoon off once in a while. Cancel a Monday morning meeting or two. Tell the cast of characters you’d like them to spend the same amount of time normally spent preparing for and attending the meeting at their desks, simply thinking about an original idea. And it has to be something they’ve never mentioned before. Don’t even require them to submit the results. Just see what happens.

If you discover one of your executives looking at the wall, like the oboe player, instead of filling out a report, go over and congratulate him or her.

They are probably doing the company a lot more good than anything else they could be doing. They’re thinking. It’s the hardest, most valuable task any person performs. It’s what helped get you where you are.

THINK! don’t stifle it. Encourage it.

About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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