30 Jul

6 Questions to Ask if Your Organization’s Work Feels Overwhelming

In my practice of coaching executives and working with their teams, I often hear that they feel their work load is overwhelming. Many contend that this holds true across their organizations.

In trying to understand the situation and what actions can be taken, consider the following questions.

  1. Can you increase the bench? Some possible ways to do so are by adding:
    1. Staff
    2. Interns
    3. Fellows
    4. Pro bono services
    5. Volunteer power
  2. Are there efficiencies to be realized? Some possible ways to increase efficiencies are by:
    1. Creating systems and processes
    2. Training and coaching staff around time management or to build content or skills
    3. Helping employees prioritize and sequence their work
  3. Are the right people in the right seats? If not, consider:
    1. Adjusting job descriptions
    2. Moving people into different roles
    3. Moving people out and rehiring
  4. Can you defer any work? All current work plans should be examined to consider:
    1. Prioritizing must do/nice to do/optional tasks
    2. Moving deadlines
  5. Can you eliminate any work? Check for the usual culprits that take a lot of time and may not have significant impact such as:
    1. Events
    2. Meetings
    3. Too many committees or subcommittee that are not relevant or necessary
    4. Tactics from the last strategic plan or planning process that are no longer relevant or having an impact
    5. Busy work
  6. Are there cultural shifts that need to be made? Do adjustments need to be made to the work place culture such as:
    1. Identifying more planning time to make the actual work flow better and more clear
    2. Increasing productivity with down time in the life cycle of your organization, increasing vacation time or allowing more remote work
    3. Changing expectations regarding work hours to include some evenings and/or weekend

Usually, there is no magic solution. Rather a bit of trial and error is necessary to find what reduces the work flow and/or makes it more manageable. With staff burnout and retention a real concern and hiring competitive, this is an important area to address for leadership.

Nanette Fridman, MPP, JD, is President of Fridman Strategies, Inc. (, a consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, financial resource development, governance and leadership coaching for values-driven organizations.  She is the author of On Board: What Current and Aspiring Board Members Must Know About Nonprofits & Board Service. Nanette can be reached at

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