Many managers are getting sucked into an incredible vortex of busyness and daily fire fighting. It’s becoming a bigger and bigger challenge to keep themselves and others focused and strategic in this 24/7, always-on, Blackberry culture. This is a large and rapidly growing problem that we are seeing in more and more organizations. When left unchecked, the problem leads to burnout, turnover, morale problems, frenzied everything-is-urgent wheel spinning, and poor execution.

In a Harvard Business Review article entitled “Beware the Busy Manager,” Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal report on their ten years of studying effective and ineffective managers. “Managers will tell you that the resource they lack most is time…If you watch them, you’ll see them rushing from meeting to meeting, checking their e-mail constantly, fighting fires – an astonishing amount of fast-moving activity that allows almost no time for reflection…Managers think they are attending to important matters, but they’re really just spinning their wheels…Fully 90% of managers squander their time in all sorts of ineffective activities. A mere 10% of managers spend their time in a committed, purposeful, and reflective manner.”

The problem has become so bad with some of our Clients that groups have established a ground rule to check their Blackberries at the door when entering meetings. Picture a row of identical Blackberries with Post-It-Notes identifying the owner with their red blinking message light flashing on the table beside the coffee pot.

Good for them! They recognize the problem and have acted on it. In other organizations, weak leadership and poor time and priority discipline are causing meetings and planning sessions to deteriorate in a complete waste of time as participants rudely check e-mail (many try to hide what they are doing while someone else is talking), take phone calls, and allow others to come in and pull them out of the meeting.

It’s a serious case of Attention Deficient Disorder that is dumbing down far too many groups. Research shows that multi-tasking reduces our ability to concentrate by 10 – 15 IQ points. That drop isn’t something many of us can afford! Drops in group IQ must be two or three times that — call it “unsynergy.”