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Effective Executive Magazine:
Twelve Lessons from Six Days in New York City
 
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Multitasking can have adverse consequences. It becomes more demanding when the imperatives of short-term problems have to be balanced against longer-term issues, tasks multiply and/or involve external parties and/or require collaborative responses. A scheme of delegation, the extent of empowerment, task routing and handling, and policies may need to be reviewed. Boards should take a holistic view of portfolios of tasks and look for patterns, trends, common drivers and underlying root causes. Individual tasks may be less important than their collective implications. A monthly board meeting alone may not provide strategic direction and oversight of a portfolio of climate change-related tasks, projects and initiatives of differing timescales. Sometimes, the failure of multitasking may trigger a change of direction. Effective collective responses to climate change can build bridges across belief, governance and political systems, but require boards that are positive, proactive, opportunity focused and collaborative.

   
For organizational leaders, multitasking can be a particular challenge. As a result of their positions, a wide range of internal issues are referred to them, while many external communications are initially addressed to them. Some protection may be provided by personal assistants, but with so many matters competing for their attention, devoting sufficient time to each of them can be difficult even when they are not in conflict. The challenge is compounded when leaders have to handle and balance the imperatives of short-term problems, some of which may require immediate responses, and longer-term issues such as climate change, protecting the environment and sustainability.

Organizations and their leaders need to find ways of screening issues, challenges and opportunities, assessing them and addressing them in an appropriate way in terms of how they are handled, when and by whom. Inappropriate treatment can have adverse consequences, as can the overloading of colleagues to whom leaders delegate. Individuals and other organizations may feel short-changed if a matter of great importance to them is quickly dealt with by an automated and/or standard response or by someone perceived as “junior”. An inadequate reaction to a competitor’s price cut, a new business model, a hacked system or product failure could threaten an organization’s existence.
 
 
Effective Executive Journal ,Organizational Leadership, Multitasking, Multiple Timescales.