Series on Multi-tasking: Effects on Productivity

So we have read that multi-tasking might not be the most optimal way to function however, are there are any numbers which can peg the harmful effects of the same? Realization, the leading provider of Flow-based Planning and Execution solutions that help organizations complete projects 20 to 50 percent faster, has released a report, “The Effects of Multitasking on Organizations” which reveals that organizational multitasking, a problem that typically goes unnoticed within large companies, annually costs the global economy more than $450 billion in lost productivity.

Job seekers around the world still tout their ability to multitask as a desirable skill, and in many organizations, multitasking is worn as a badge of honor; however, research consistently shows that people who attempt to multitask suffer a wide array of negative effects, from wasting 40 percent of their productive time switching tasks to experiencing a heightened susceptibility to distraction.

The new report from Realization examines a problem that previous researchers have paid little attention to: the effects of multitasking at the organizational level. Just as individual multitasking occurs when a person’s time is split between too many tasks, organizational multitasking occurs when a group is focused on too many things and its overall capacity is adversely affected. The end results are delays and interruptions, reduced quality and rework, peaks and valleys in workflow, and lack of proper preparation before tasks and projects.

To examine the effects of organizational multitasking more rigorously, Realization, a provider of Flow-based Planning and Execution systems for engineering and projects, studied 45 organizations with between 1,000 and 50,000 employees with an average annual revenue of more than $1 billion from a diverse range of industries – including automotive, aerospace and defense, aviation, energy, semiconductors, software and pharmaceuticals – that consciously implemented measures to reduce multitasking in their organizations.

The results speak for themselves. The organizations were much more productive. The mean increase in throughput was 59.8 percent, while the median increase was 38.2 percent. In addition, organizations finished projects faster after organizational multitasking had been reduced. The mean cycle-time reduction was 35.5 percent, while the median cycle-time reduction was 31 percent.

“Our study clearly demonstrates the massive impact that organizational multitasking is having in many different industries, and the real tragedy is that most of the organizations that suffer from it don’t even realize that it’s happening,” said Sanjeev Gupta, CEO of Realization. “Everyone appears to be working very hard, but in fact, they are spending a lot of their time simply spinning their wheels, switching from task to task, without ever having the time to finish something before another ‘urgent’ item is put on their plate. Organizational multitasking can be addressed, but first, managers have to recognize the problem.”