Who Empties the Trash?

“True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.”
—Kurt Vonnegut

I do sometimes struggle to get this newsletter out on time. May was one of those months. My Podcast Book Tour began, my wife had full hip replacement surgery, and many other demands arose.

So, this is the May installment. It includes something newan excerpt from Businesses Don’t Fail, Chapter 9-Who Empties the Trach, and the anecdote is called…

The Case of the Duplicated Report

The leadership team included the general manager, three vice presidents, and four senior managers. When they needed some data, everyone knew it was in a familiar report they didn’t have in the meeting. One of the vice presidents and one of the senior managers both stood and said, almost in unison, “I’ve got last month’s report on my desk. I’ll go get it.”

Neither had distributed their report to the other. Both were surprised their colleague had a copy. Both left to fetch their copy. Both returned quickly with two different versions of the same data.

Everyone was familiar with one report or the other; no one had seen both.

Keith, one of the senior managers, asked Karlee, one of the vice-presidents, where she got the report.

“I had my staff create it. They create it for me every month. We’ve been producing it since before I came on board. That’s at least five years now.”

“Really, have you tracked how long it takes to produce?

Forty hours, give or take,” she replied without hesitation.


After a nervous silence while everyone regained their equilibrium, Keith spoke.

“Reeeeally” was all he could say.

After a few moments of absorption and reflection, Garry, the general manager, spoke.

“I assume no one has seen both reports, no one knew two people were creating the same report, correct?”

Every head in the room nodded.

“Keith, am I safe in assuming your team invests about forty hours each month creating your version?”

Keith nodded.

“Does everyone get a copy of one of these reports every month?” asked Garry.

Every head in the room nodded.

“Great, no one was aware two similar reports existed. Let’s pass them around. Look for anything in one and not the other.”

Several minutes later, Garry asked, “Did anyone see anything in one that wasn’t in the other?”

Everyone shook their head.

“Is there any reason we’re creating two reports and spending eighty or more hours when we could be spending forty?

Again, every head in the room shook no.

“At forty hours for each report and two reports each month, one quarter of someone’s annual salary is going straight down the drain. We have a problem, people. It’s not major, and it is a slow bleed of time, one of our most precious, unrecoverable assets. How are we going to fix this?”

Keith said, “No one has enough time, and fixing this is simple. Karlee and I will figure out who’s best positioned to produce the report and stop duplicating efforts. The bigger problem for me is, where else are we wasting time?

How do we gather and evaluate that information without wasting more time on minor, unimportant administrivia? If we’re going to go through this process, we want to make sure it creates some return on our investment. At least that way, we can all make the best use of our time.”


A common reality among managers is, day-to-day operations demand more time than there is to give. Asking them to commit additional time and energy to tracking and monitoring the details that make their businesses work is tantamount to bleeding the dead.

Initially, routine can be comforting. Over time, and without thought, familiarity breeds complacency that inevitably leads to costly bad habits and crippling assumptions.

Are you concerned about where your organization may be wasting resources? Do you know your organization’s areas of weakness?

If you are interested in an independent assessment from a different, external perspective, we’re offering a 30-minute exploration session. Email me at larry@mandelberg.biz and we’ll schedule one. When finished, you’ll have new insights into your organization’s areas of strength and weakness.

With the dramatic changes happening around us, now is THE best time to begin.

You’ll find more on business, leadership, and change in my Mandelblog, the information source leaders depend on. For more on the Business Managers Reality Index (mBMRI), or to schedule an Index survey for your company, email index@mandelberg.biz.


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